Happy Tuesday everyone! It is the second day the week and also the first day of the sixth month of the year. Happy first day of June everyone! Wah, I can’t believe were at the middle of the year already. Nevertheless, I hope everyone is doing well and is safe. Oh well, Tuesday also means one thing, a Top Ten Tuesday update! Top Ten Tuesday is an original blog meme created by The Broke and the Bookish and is currently being hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. For this week, the topic is a free for all which got me thinking about a variety of subjects.
After running through all possible topics, I settled on my Top Ten Magical Realist works. It was, I believe, in 2015 when I first discovered magical realism through Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude and Haruki Murakami’s 1Q84. The complexities of these books and of the genre initially made me apprehensive about digging further into this growing literary genre. But after reading a couple of books, I started getting the groove and magical realism has grown on me.
Magical realism has not always been a popular genre. Some writers even frowned upon this genre. In his novel, Saturday, Ian McEwan referred to it as as “sort of escapism” and “out of touch with reality.” I can’t remember where I encountered it but someone said that it is a “lazy” genre. Nevertheless, through the popular works of Haruki Murakami, Salman Rushdie, among others, magical realism has slowly become an important pillar of the literary world. Without more ado, here are some of my favorite works from this genre.
Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie
Kicking off my list with one of my all-time favorite reads, Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children. Before I read the novel, I had very little expectations about the novel because the previous Rushdie novels I read were really not my cup of tea. However, this novel that explored the infancy of the independent Indian republic blew me away. Through the story of unique children born during the midnight of the country’s independence, I began to understand why it was once called the Booker of Bookers.
The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende
Another favorite read of mine is Chilean novelist Isabel Allende’s The House of the Spirits. Coincidentally, both Midnight’s Children and The House of the Spirits were part of my 2018 Top 20 Reading List and both ended up being two of my all time reads. This was my first Allende novel which came in highly recommended and I can understand why. However, unlike its fellow Latin American contemporaries, it is light on the magical realist part but it was still engaging. The novel made me understand a part of Chilean modern history.
The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov
From India, to Chile, the next novel in the list is set in Stalinist Russia (partly), and Jerusalem. The third novel from my 2018 Top 20 Reading List, Mikhail Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita further endeared me to Russian literature. It is a complex novel that has covered a vast ground such as religion, atheism and the prevailing attitude of the Muscovite literati. Through the tale of two unique and distinct characters, the novel alluded to the overall atmosphere in Russia during the Stalin regime. Honestly, it was not an easy read but it was a unique and lush one.
One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
As mentioned in the introduction, Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s popular novel, One Hundred Years of Solitude, was one of my first encounters with magical realism. When I bought, I barely had any iota on what the book was about or who Garcia Marquez was. I admit, I struggled to make sense of the story of the fictional town of Macondo and the Buendias; I was at my wit’s end for it was an uncharted territory for me. However, as I moved forward, I just let the story wrap me in and it became an easier read that I started to understand the struggles of the Buendias. What triumphed is Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s writing prowess and his imaginative descriptions which are intricate to the hilt.
Life of Pi by Yann Martel
Yann Martel’s Life of Pi is the second Booker Prize for Fiction winner in this list, after Midnight’s Children. My first encounter with the story was through its movie adaption which was highly recommended by my friends for its philosophical content. Martel did a great job in conveying important messages about life, death, and faith in Life of Pi. Unlike the Murakamis or the Rushdies, the magical realist element of the novel is nearly synonymous to fantasy which, I guess, made it easier to comprehend and appreciate. It was also engaging and can be studied under various lenses, each starkly different from the other. The last part reiterated a question that pervaded the second part: which story does one opt to believe?
Life of Pi by Yann Martel
Latin American writers have certainly earned the reputation as topnotch writers of the magical realist genre. Another book in this long line of finely written narrative is Laura Esquivel’s ever-popular Like Water for Chocolate. I have been meaning to read the book for the longest time ever since I first encountered it but my wrong idea of the book made me hold off; I thought it was a short story collection. The brand of Esquivel’s magical realism careened towards the emotional and the character-centric. Ghosts and the physical manifestation of internal emotions, rather than full-blown magic, were substitutes for the grander themes of social and political nature.
1Q84 by Yann Martel
No magical realism list is complete without at least one Haruki Murakami novel. Haruki Murakami was instrumental in making the genre mainstream. 1Q84 was my first Haruki Murakami novel, and, along with One Hundred Years of Solitude, was my baptism of fire. It is no wonder that my experience with the novel mirrored that of my experience with Garcia Marquez’s. Despite its complexities and eccentricities, 1Q84 swept me, reeling me into the vast and labyrinthine world of Murakami’s works. From my book review:
“Reading 1Q84 is like ingesting a food that is unfamiliar to one’s palate. Its blend of fantasy, religion, sex, hope, loneliness, and romance is bizarre, leaving a different yet impressionable aftertaste. It was seasoned with a healthy dose of surrealism and was sprinkled with a serving of fantasy. These ingredients were masterfully and tastefully mixed and cooked by Murakami’s capable hands into a scrumptious literary delicacy. It is rare and only a master chef like Murakami is capable of dishing out such delicate handcrafted menu. In this instance, 1Q84, is not just about reading, it is about, tasting, rather, experiencing something new, a unique moment that lingers.”
The Tin Drum by Gunter Grass
Oskar Matzerath. An eccentric character, to say the least. He was blessed with a different kind of gift – he can shatter glasses with his mere shriek. More importantly, he is a towering and scintillating creation of Grass’ imagination that continues to walk the sacrosanct halls of literature. However, it is not just Oskar and his unreliable narrating that makes this tour de force work. It is the story’s backdrop that subtly elevates this masterpiece – the horrors of the Second World War. The book’s entertainment value belies a very dark tale. The Tin Drum is a fusion of Oskar’s drive to go beyond his limitations and of the horrors of the Second World War.
If On A Winter’s Night A Traveler by Italo Calvino
It is without a doubt that Italo Calvino’s If On A Winter’s Night A Traveler is one of my most unique reads. The structure and the obscured messages made for a riveting experience. Its most brilliant facet was how it engaged the reader from start to finish. Calvino shrewdly steered and maneuvered the plot in a manner that the reader can identify with the main male protagonist. Well, the reader is the main male protagonist. Calvino created an enhanced reading experience, delving into the profound psyche of reading, making his novel a more insightful and more thought-provoking work. (I didn’t realize that metafiction, of which this belongs, is also a part of magical realism! HAHA)
A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
Patrick Ness’ A Monster Calls will always have a soft spot in my heart. Just like Life Of Pi, my first encounter with the story was through its movie adaptation although I am still to watch the movie in its entirety. A Monster Calls is the story of Conor who, at a young age, had to grapple with an impending loss. The story is very heartbreaking – everybody loves children and everybody wishes that they won’t end up on the short end of the stick. Unfortunately, it is not always the reality. A Monster Calls, along with Bridge to Terabithia are my top children’s fiction works.
And thus ends my list. I also have quite a long list of books from this genre in line such as a bunch of Toni Morrison’s works like Beloved, and The Song of Solomon; Angela Carter’s Nights at the Circus; a couple from Haruki Murakami’s and Salman Rushdie’s repertoires; and a whole lot more. Certainly, magical realism has grown on me and at one point, I even considered it as my favorite genre.
How about you fellow reader, what books from this genre do you love or enjoy the most? I do hope you share it in the comment box! For now, happy Tuesday! Happy first day of June!