Magical realism is a niche genre of fiction that straddles the space between realism and fantasy. In this genre, stories are rooted in the reality of everyday life – there is no worldbuilding as such. But there are irrational, illogical elements of magic that crop up in the day to day life, and these do not require explanation because they are not out of the ordinary in the world of the book. Here is a list of ten magical realism books everyone should read.
10 Books With Magical Realism Everyone Should Read:
- One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
- Pedro Paramo by Juan Rulfo
- Before the Coffee Gets Cold by Toshikazu Kawaguchi
- Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie
- Latitudes of Longing by Shubhangi Swarup
- The House of the Spirits by Isabelle Allende
- Beloved by Toni Morrison
- Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami
- Life of Pi by Yenn Martel
- The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov
One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
In this book that chronicles the life of seven generations of the Buendia family that lives in the fictional town of Macondo, Marquez pioneers the genre of magical realism. There are epidemics of sleep, aviation of lady saints and gypsies who create magic. Time is circular and repetitive in the story. This book is strikingly original. The magic is not just in the story but also the sweltering tropical terrains of Latin America, which compound the magic.
Pedro Paramo by Juan Rulfo
The protagonist of this book is Juan Preciado, and we follow his journey to his mother’s homeland after her death. After this, the story disintegrates into a ghost parable of sorts, where in a ghost town comes to life. The ghost town is populated by eccentric characters, which Ruflo describes with sensuousness. This book is the precedent to One Hundred Years of Solitude, and Marquez took a lot of inspiration from Ruflo.
Before the Coffee Gets Cold by Toshikazu Kawaguchi
In this book, a small, cosy coffee shop in Tokyo offers its customers the unique opportunity to move in time while sipping on their coffee. The only catch is that they must return before the coffee gets cold. In this world where magic combines with reality to create moving episodes of people who take this opportunity, stories come alive with all their intensity. All characters in the book, for different reasons, take their chance and travel in time.
Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie
The protagonist of this book is an orphan boy born on the midnight of India’s independence on 15th August 1947. By virtue of this special moment of birth, he becomes part of a secret group of children born at the same time and the same day. This secret group of children possesses mysterious magical abilities. The book traverses space and time to create a timeless narrative of love, loss and longing.
Latitudes of Longing by Shubhangi Swarup
The boundaries between human and natural worlds are blurred in this book, which features a clairvoyant who can talk to trees, a restless ocean spirit that is sentient and a village head who can predict landslides and thunderstorms. The book traverses four countries, from Andaman in India to Kathmandu in Nepal and a Faultline along Irawaddy delta in Burma to a village nestled in the Karakorams near Pakistan.
The House of the Spirits by Isabelle Allende
In the tradition of Marquez, Allende’s wonderful book looks at the history of Chile through generations of a family named Trueba – especially its women. Embedded in this book are social issues like patriarchy, wars and the economy as well. From the patriarch Eruba to a clairvoyant Clara, their daughter Blanca and her forbidden love Esteban, we journey through the history of a family and of Chile.
Beloved by Toni Morrison
Nobel laureate Morrison’s book, in which the ghosts of a haunted past return to the present, is a socially inquisitive magical realist book. The book unfolds in the years following the American Civil War. The focus of the story is a family living at Cincinnati, in a haunted house. The book won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction, which shows the potency of this book in showing the repercussions of slavery, which fester long after the slavery has ended.
Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami
The protagonist of this book, Kafka, leaves his home under the prophesy of an Oedipal complex. In an effort to thwart it, he runs away and finds refuge in a library. The owner of the library is an older woman, with whom Kafka has a brief affair, fulfilling the prophesy. Overcome by guilt, he runs away into a cabin in the woods. Here he enters an alternate dimension where everything is upside down.
Life of Pi by Yenn Martel
This landmark animal fantasy novel tells the story of a Tamilian boy from Pondhicherry ‘Pi’ Patel and a Bengal tiger. Together, they are stranded on a boat after a shipwreck, and the bond they form is ineffably beautiful. Featuring talking animals and a tender, young boy. And the story unfolds amidst seascapes that are evocative and transcendental in their magical setting, this book is a must read. It also won the Man Booker Prize, so it’s an award winning book as well.
The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov
This bewildering Menippean satire follows Satan and his crew. This includes a naked witch and a cat with a penchant for chess and vodka, descent on earth. During their stay in Russia, they experience life in a city that believes in neither God nor Satan. But they also bring joy into the lives of the Master and Margarita. The master is a writer of a daring novel and Margarita, who loves him. This world is nothing like reality, but talks about real political and social events.
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10 Books With Magical Realism Everyone Should Read