Gabriel Gárcia Marquez passed away last night leaving a body of work that is enviable. I was introduced to the writer under the ‘Post Colonial Literature’ paper during my graduation days at Kirori Mal College.
That time we came across a term called ‘magic realism’. This is the style/genre of writing where the reality seems magical or is almost unbelievable. However, the reality is reality.
Then you realise, your reality needn’t be someone else’s reality. It might appear to be a work of fiction. Your mind would give it to that perception which an author talks as being real because, may be, you have never seen or heard about such things.
Magic realism has more to do with how does the realism of one place is perceived by the people of other place. East’s stories of stark poverty, murder for petty reasons, romance etc always looked somewhat out of space to Western world. Similarly, Marquez’s or Rushdie’s works do no cater to the limited/perceived imagination of western reviewers/critics.
So, however realist their writings are, they always have an element if fantasy for the foreign guy. No one charms snakes on the streets of London or rides an elephant in the middle of a Manhattan road, but that is very common to. Indian society. There is an element of fantastic at work. Fantastic for people who have never experienced such stories.
They see the same place differently. Read Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness and Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart and you will see how an insider looks at Africa with respect to a foreigner.
It happens even in India. A Delhite cannot imagine not having a bathroom in a house but the reality is that happens all the time in Indian villages. Our thoughts and imaginations are shaped by our existing environment.
If one hasn’t ever seen a tiger, one wouldn’t ever know how it might look or behave. Remember how Alexander had to run away seeing Indian soldiers on elephants thinking it was something from another planet.
It is a Western reviewer/critic’s limited horizon if thoughts that gives birth to such terms because they control the press, they have the money, they propagate cultures, they own our thoughts in that process. And that’s what we are taught: the ‘widely’ accepted literary theories caring less whether or not they apply to our own culture, if at all.