Magical Realism

I’ve been reading a lot of fiction lately that I found under the label of ‘magical realism’, and as the novels gave me story inspiration, I decided to look into magical realism.

Well. Talk about mislabeling!

Instead of trying to explain Magical Realism (MR), and the problems with the misuse, I’ll let this dude explain.

What I’ve been reading is more like, Urban Fantasy Lite, with some literary fiction elements. It has some similarities to MR, but it also lacks some key elements.

The similarities are pretty straightforward; both use lyrical, very elegant tone/style, rather than the common voice I generally write with. Both tend to move along at a slower, more thoughtful pace. Both use tiny elements of magic. So, lots of similarities, at least on the surface.

What are these missing key elements of Magical Realism (that I think are necessary)?

  1. Magic is mundane (so magical events and people are treated exactly like everything else). In most of the ‘urban lite’ stuff, the magic always marks the main character out as different than everyone else. Magic is used to create a sense of isolation, but that’s not part of MR. In MR, the magic is just so ordinary, everyone within the story world just takes it for granted, which is completely opposite of the intent of urban lite writers.
  2. Major social and ethical issues are examined (war, classicism, racism, etc). Most urban lite stuff is about personal interactions, sense of belonging, and romance. All great things (after all, I enjoyed to books a lot), but they’re far more about entertaining than making the reader think.

All that said, I really like this urban lite stuff. I’ll eventually write my own take on it, but I won’t call it magical realism, because it isn’t.



15 thoughts on “Magical Realism

    • Not quite; in HP, the magic is consciously practised and well understood, but hidden from the real world. In Magical Realism, the magic is tiny, subtle, and as natural and unconscious as breathing. If the HP world only had the tiny magics and they were available to everyone, then it would be closer to MR.

      There’s also the stylist element of MR, which involves lots of descriptive phrases, piles of lyrical and romantic elements, and a dreamy, leisurely pace. Definitely not how I’d describe the style of HP, lol.


  1. Fascinating! Thank you for posting that – I had no idea (can’t say I’ve read much of, i.e. any, Jorge Louis Borgez, or whatever his name is). And now you’ve got me thinking about fantasy as a whole… Hmm…


  2. What do you think of the movie O Brother, Where art Thou? as a type of magical realism?

    I’ve watched this movie with my parents and my great aunt. They say it’s pretty accurate.


      • Seriously, see it. The movie is set in Mississippi, but is based on a real political conflict in Texas. There really was a governor O’Daniel here who owned wheat mills. He really did defeat a KKK backed faction.

        O’Daniel went to the US Senate, but was ousted by LBJ in a controversial election. I don’t think LBJ cheated, he just counted the black vote in the few counties where blacks could actually vote effectively.


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