Maravilloso real or magic surrealism is a style of writing largely associated with Latin America, according to the Encyclopedia Britannica. Columbian writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez is one of the most prominent literary figures for the genre, along with Isabel Allende and Jorge Luis Borges, among others. Stories that employ the magic surrealism often depict unbelievable or unsettling events or characters in a realistic way. Haven’t read much yet in the way of genre classics? Here are a few pieces to serve as an excellent introduction to the style:
Two Words by Isabel Allende
This is a short story about Belisa Crepusculario, a young woman who sells words for a living. The narrative starts out with a description of how life began for Belisa, born to a family so poor they didn’t even have names for their children. We see her survive her family’s deaths, wandering around, and finally finding salvation in an old newspaper: she finally learns what words are and finds a priest to teach her how to read and write. That’s how she honed her craft. And so one august morning, we see her carried off by a soldier and brought to camp because the dreaded leader, Colonel, wanted to be president. And he needed a speech. And who better to provide that than a woman who sells words? From there, the story unfolds in a simple but absorbing way. When Belisa finally finishes the speech and renders all the men at camp in tears, she’s let go and paid for her services. But before she goes, she offers two secrets words for the Colonel alone.
From town to town, we see the Colonel succeed, the speech giving the man the fame and support he needs. But the Colonel himself doesn’t see that, repeating the secret words over and over. So the solider captures Belisa again, this time and brings her to the Colonel, this time to demand that the Colonel give back the two words. Read the story and find out how it ends. It’s a wonderful tale about the spellbinding power of words, of how a speech can sway an entire nation or a mere two mere words steal your heart. If you haven’t downloaded this yet, no worries. Plenty of online bookstores carry it. Nook Ebook store offers classics on its list. So browse through the selection and download the whole book.
The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka
While Kafka wrote other stories representative of the genre—like The Hunger Artist, The Judgment—it is, perhaps, The Metamorphosis that remains one of the most well-known of his works, possibly due to the tone of the material. It starts off with Gregor Samsa waking up one day to discover he has turned into an insect, which according to a lot of sources, seems to be a beetle. The New Yorker describes it as a reference to a life that has gone out of control. Soon, he becomes a housekeeping problem for his family, who keeps him out of sight. Gregor is an anti-hero typical of Kafka’s works. Before his transformation, he was practically the family’s sole source of income. As a bug, Gregor is unable to work, much less speak to his family. However, he understands them quite clearly and when his father expresses the opinion that Gregor ought to simply leave, he retreats back to his room and dies. The writing is detailed, harrowing, and darkly amusing.
The Library of Babel by Jorge Luis Borges
Included in his famous collection, Ficciones, this short story about a library, a colossal collection of books arranged in a geometric fashion. The Paris Review says that the library contains all the possible permutation of 22 spaces, commas, letters as well as periods. It contains books of nonsense but it also contains, based on those permutations, all the books ever written or ever will be. Somewhere in the chaos, there’s that one book that contains all the names of the books in the library, like a magic master list and those caught in the library’s labyrinth are eager to chase after this book or the ‘Man of the Book,’ who they believe has read it. The story borrows elements from mathematics. If you’ve got a taste for the elusive and haunting, even challenging in your reading material, this one should pass the time quite nicely.
Super Frog Saves Tokyo
A remarkable story from of Haruki Murakami’s After the Quake collection, it’s about a frog who tries to persuade a bank teller to take on an evil worm in combat that promises to be a fight to the death. Where else can you find a frog that quotes Dostoevsky and Hemingway? Contemporary in tone and heart, the story is unquestionably set in the intensely dreamlike and metaphysical prose we associate with Murakami and his greatest works.
So if you haven’t dipped your toes yet in surrealist literature, here’s your chance. Read up on more surrealist stories and discover a world of dreams and reality woven together, a universe where everything and everyone is deliciously possible.