e’ve survived through half of 2018 and even though we made it past the hump, the first six months have felt like an endless loop of negative news. How are you coping?
Keeping in brand with my generation, I too have been switching from hanging out in the upside down in Stranger Things, flipping through mind twisting episodes from Westworld, to binging on the reality bending episodes on Black Mirror. Why? Because these narratives seem to serve an escape to our rising levels of anxiety, it’s a modern version of Magical Realism, think Márquez for the Netflix era.
s a proud Latina, I grew up knowing the likes of Gabriel García Marquez, Jorge Luis Borges, Julio Cortázar and the likes. From “100 Years of Solitude”, to “The Garden of the Biforking paths” and “A letter to a Young Lady in Paris”, realismo mágico, magical realism is a genre made famous by Latin American authors who used pen and paper to create a common ground as result of discrepancies that arose between the culture of technology and the culture of superstition in the region. Realismo mágico was also seen as an escape at a time when the rise of political dictatorships in the region made words infinitely prized and were also seen as a highly manipulative tool.
The genre is known to fuse narrative reality with fantastic and fabulous elements, not so much to reconcile them as to exaggerate their apparent discordance, a way of making sense out of the outright insane. It challenged the notion of “reality” in a way that involved questioning the truth, (sound familiar?) which in turn ended up undermining the authority of the novel itself.
ake for example Borges’, “The Garden of the Biforking Paths” set in World War I, the characters discover an infinite labyrinth, a “garden of forking paths” in which the forking takes place not in physical space but in the dimension of time. Borges describes a world where all possible outcomes of an event occur simultaneously, each one leading to proliferation of possibilities, different paths that eventually converged again, as a result of different chain reactions.
Another of my favorites, “Letter to a Lady in Paris” in which Cortázar relates a short story using a confession letter format. The main character addresses his letter to his friend in Paris, who has graciously lent him the apartment while she remains abroad. He finds himself in quite the predicament as he inexplicably starts to vomit bunnies, first sporadically and by the end with a lot more frequency, to the point where its anxiety inducing. He tries to hide the bunnies all around the apartment, particularly from the cleaning lady. Even in it’s absurdity, you are able to relate to the anxiety of the character, and his ultimate decision to put an end to the bunnies, which inherently meant putting an end to his own life. Absurd, but also in a way, real.
ast but not least, Gabriel García Márquez’s “100 Years of Solitude” relates the story of a fictional Colombian town called Macondo, where he mixes ordinary narratives with extraordinary events. Fatalism is a major theme as the town seems to be plagued through generations, the same which stem intrinsically from the ideology used at the beginning of Macondo’s creation. (Sounds eerily relatable in 2018)
Just as before, magical realism continues to serve a narrative mode and a means for representing contemporary anxieties in popular culture. It could also be argued that in a way, these types of narratives, take Westworld or the Series Black Mirror, can also be used to evaluate our reality. Whether it’s bound in a book, or is a click-away I invite you to dive into the realm of magical realism. It will bring you to to examine what you consider to be real or possible, and most notably, challenge your perceptions of truth.