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Hyperbolic narration: magical realism

Magic Realism is a term found by art historian Franz Roh in 1925, to describe a visual arts movement emerging throughout Europe. It is known that a large number of critical terms in literature are borrowed from painting. Magic Realism is one of those terms. The usage of that technique leads the author make the themes and subjects are more imaginary, outlandish and with a fantastic dream like quality.

Gabriel Garcia Marquez, who is the author of ‘One Hundred Years of Solitude’, does not like to be considered a writer of Magic Realism, even it is clear to see Magic Realism techniqu in his novel, he claims only to be realist without much exaggeration in his work. He states, “As the final judgment runs, the source of all creation is reality”. In “One Hundred Years of Solitude” for example, the banana company treats its workers so badly that they all go on strike. They gathered in the main square of the town, where the government has them surrounded by soldiers armed with machine guns. When the crowed refuses to disperse, the order is given to open fire, and three thousand people are killed. Their corpses are, then, put into the trains and sent off to the sea, and the whole incident is officially denied to the point that Jose Arcadio Segundo finds it impossible to persuade anyone that it has taken place. For a European observer, the ability of a government to hide such incidents is indeed unbelievable. However, in Latin America, as well in the most of the third world countries, the situation is still worse than can be imagined.

To the eye of European and North American common sense, the career of the Central character in “One Hundred Years of Solitude” Colonel Aureliano clearly belongs to the realm of magic and fantasy and not of reality. For, in the course of his career he, “Organized thirty two armed uprisings and he lost them all, he had seventeen male children by seventeen different women and they were exterminated one after the other in a single night… he survived fourteen attempts on his life, seventy three ambushes and a firing squad. He lived through a doze of strychnine in his coffee that was enough to kill a horse. He refused the Order of Merit… He rose to be the commander in chief of the revolutionary forces with jurisdiction and command from one border to the other and the man most feared by the government… Although he always fought at the head of his men, the only wound that he received was the one he gave himself. He shot himself in the chest with a pistol and the bullet came out through his back with out damaging any vital organ”. (Márquez, 2003)

Early in the novel, a mysterious girls arrives who either cannot or will not speak and whom they call Rebecca. She brings with her the sickness of insomnia of which the most fearsome part, as an Indian woman explains, “was not the impossibility of sleeping, for the body did not feel any fatigue at all, but its inexorable evolution towards a more critical manifestation; a loss of memory.” Melquiades, a man of letters discovered its remedy but before him, Jose Arcadia has already invented a memory machine in which he has recorded almost fourteen thousand entries. World, in this way, becomes a slave of dictionary as it refuses all possibility of change by overcoming the loss of memory.

It is not difficult to count a number of reasons for these apparently incredible details, which Gabriel Garcia Marquez provides in his work, but the most convincing one is, perhaps the obvious mundane purpose of enabling him to avoid censorship.

Marquez’ technique has also been described as a kind of narrative ‘hyperbole’ which seeks to expand the sensibility with which we perceive the world we live in. In One Hundred Years of Solitude, Marquez’s characters are often endowed with a kind of supernatural power. Aureliano can see the future. Remedios The Beauty is taken up into the clouds as a divine being. Melquiades survives death, and stays on earth as a ghost. Ursula chooses not to die and lives for over a hundred years. In One Hundred Years ofnSolitude, if the resolution is strong enough, nothing can overpower it. It is perfectly possible for people to have power over even death. The characters struggle to create and define their own worlds, their fight is against time, history and fate. It could be said that Marquez’ endowment of his characters with special power is an illustration of our powerlessness against forces which remain outside our control. By crossing the border of normal possibility, Marquez reminds us of the limitations of our own ‘real’ lives, but also of the possibility of viewing the world in an entirely different way. Marquez’s characters struggle to control, and to create their own world. It is through this act of creation that we can truly escape the forces in life over which we have no control. Marquez suggests that literature is the means by which we can gain understanding of a world-view different from our own, and therefore an understanding of our common humanity. While politics and ideology have the power to de-humanise, literature has the power to remind us of our humanity. Through imagination, and art, we can be elevated from the restrictions we face in day to day life, and we can also be enlightened as to the true potential of our lives, and our own individual power to create and shape our own destinies.


  • Márquez, G. G. (2003). PURPLE PATCH: Liberal Paradise . Retrieved from Daily Times: //

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