Who first used the term magical realism?

Magical realism

The magical realism (Spanishrealismo magico) is an artistic movement that has been represented since the 1920s, especially in the field of painting and literature in some European countries as well as North and South America. Magical realism was later taken up and continued in the fields of film art and photography.

Magical realism in painting

Magical realism represents the fusion of real reality (tangible, visible, rational) and magical reality (hallucinations, dreams). It is a "third reality", a synthesis of the realities we are familiar with. The transition to surrealism is fluid.

Meaning and differentiation from other styles

The term was first mentioned in 1925 by the art critic Franz Roh in his book Post-Expressionism: Magical Realism. Problems of the latest European painting. used.[1] He described a post-expressionist painting style of pictures in the exhibition New Objectivity planned by Gustav Hartlaub for 1923. German painting since Expressionism, which was shown from June 14 to September 18, 1925 in the Kunsthalle Mannheim. The term “Magical Realism” was initially used to compete with the term New Objectivity and is today seen in its original sense alongside verism and classicism as a third direction with surrealist echoes of the new representational painting of the Weimar Republic.[2] While the New Objectivity movement ended with the National Socialists' seizure of power and the subsequent synchronization of the media and culture, magical realism established itself as an independent movement throughout Europe and America in the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s.[3]

After Roh's text appeared in the Spanish magazine Revista de Occidente In 1927 the term soon found its way into the intellectual circles of Buenos Aires and, after heated discussions in the 1960s to 1990s, was also applied to parts of Latin American literature.[4]

Representative of painting




Netherlands (can be visited in the museums of Arnhem and Gorssel, among others):



  • Cagnaccio di San Pietro
  • Carlo Carrà
  • Felice Casorati
  • Antonio Donghi


  • Ivan Albright
  • Paul Cadmus
  • Osvaldo Louis Guglielmi
  • George Tooker

Magical realism in literature

Latin American literature

The term “magical realism” was first applied to Latin American literature in 1948 by the Venezuelan Arturo Uslar Pietri. The Guatemalan author Miguel Ángel Asturias with his novel is also considered to be one of the fathers of the magical-realistic style in Latin America Hombres de maíz (The corn people) from 1949. It tells the reality of the culture and history of Latin America from the perspective of the indigenous population, whose myths (here those of the Maya) are realized in them. Another key figure for the style was Alejo Carpentier, who grew up in Cuba, who wrote in the foreword to his novel El reino de este mundo a manifesto of the "wonderful real" (Real Maravilloso) formulated. His program, which is often equated with magical realism, aims to establish a specifically Latin American literary direction. Carpentier, Asturias and Uslar Pietri got to know each other in Parisian literary circles and were all three strongly influenced by Surrealism.[5]

Carpentier clearly demarcated Latin America from Europe. According to him, “the European” lost the ability to experience the wonderfully real through the Enlightenment, while belief in myths and spirits in Latin America still lives naturally integrated into everyday life. Carpentier describes magical realism as a natural, not forced conception of reality: the embedding of the wonderful in everyday life. Asturias (winner of the 1967 Nobel Prize for Literature) was shaped by its mestizo origins from a Maya princess. His novel, published in 1933 El Señor Presidente, who attacks the regime of President Manuel Estrada Cabrera, forced him to emigrate from his home country.[5]

The popularization of the style of magic realism is closely related to the so-called Latin American boom from the mid-1960s onwards, a literary movement supported by young Latin American authors such as the Peruvian Mario Vargas Llosa, the Argentine Julio Cortázar and the Mexican Carlos Fuentes. The novel published in 1967 in this context A hundred years of solitude by Gabriel García Márquez (1982 Nobel Prize for Literature) is considered a fundamental work of Latin American magical realism and made it world famous. In the course of the boom, the works of older Latin American authors such as the Mexican Juan Rulfo, the Uruguayan Juan Carlos Onetti, the Paraguayan Augusto Roa Bastos or the Argentine surrealist Jorge Luis Borges became known in Europe and the United States whose precursors have been interpreted.[5]

Magic realism blurs the boundaries between reality and fantasy: folk culture, mythology, religion, history and geography merge into a reality that is perceived as natural on the level of action. The basic idea is that fantasy and realism can coexist and not necessarily conflict.


Social realism

The opposite of magical realism is realismo socialwho wants to represent social reality without the inclusion of fantastic elements.

Fantastic and fantasy

Magical realism can be considered a sub-genre of the fantastic. Some English-speaking authors also see close correspondences between magical realism and (not to be confused with fantastic) fantasy literature. In an interview, Gene Wolfe defined magical realism as follows: "Magical realism is fantasy written by Spanish-speaking people."[6] According to Terry Pratchett, magical realism is “more acceptable to certain people” and “a polite way of saying you write fantasy”.[7] Other Spanish-speaking authors of fantastic literature such as the Mexican Martha Cerda, on the other hand, expressly differentiate themselves from magical realism: “My novel is about breaking the laws of nature in the text Case is. "[8]


Alejo Carpentier sees a contrast between magical realism and European styles such as surrealism, which, according to him, must artificially create the wonderful. In contrast, the magical reality in Latin America is part of everyday life and the style proves the natural integration of the miracle (e.g. myths of gods) into daily life.


The criticism of magical realism and its commercialization in Europe and the USA intensified in the 1990s, especially in Chile, where it was first described as derogatory by José Joaquín Brunner (* 1944) Macondismo and Mexico, as well as Guatemala. He paints a false picture of an idyllic mestizo culture that ignores the traces of colonialism and the diverse division and hybridization of modern Latin American societies.[9]

Forerunners, representatives, and assigned authors of Latin American literature

See also


  • Franz Roh: Post-Expressionism. Magical realism. Problems of the latest European painting. Klinkhardt & Biermann, Leipzig 1925.
  • Franz Roh: History of German art from 1900 to the present. F. Bruckmann, Munich 1958.
  • Michael Scheffel: Magical realism. The history of a concept and an attempt to define it (= Stauffenburg Colloquium. Vol. 16). Stauffenburg, Tübingen 1990, ISBN 3-923721-46-3 (also: Göttingen, Univ., Diss., 1988).
  • Andreas Fluck: “Magical Realism” in 20th Century Painting (= European university publications. Row 28: Art history. Vol. 197). Lang, Frankfurt am Main et al. 1994, ISBN 3-631-47100-9 (also: Münster, Univ., Diss., 1992).
  • Reeds, Kenneth: Magical Realism: A problem of definition. In: Neophilologus 90 (2), London 2006, pp. 175-196.
  • Durst, Uwe: "Bounded and unbounded wonderful systems: From bourgeois to 'magical' realism", in: Lars Schmeink / Hans-Harald Müller (ed.), "Foreign worlds: Paths and spaces of fantasy in the 21st century", Berlin / Boston 2012, pp. 57-74.

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Franz Roh: Post-Expressionism: Magical Realism. Problems of the latest European painting. Klinkhardt & Biermann, Leipzig 1925.
  2. ↑ Stefanie Gommel: New Objectivity. In: Art dictionary, Hatje Cantz Verlag. January 30, 2013, accessed April 22, 2015.
  3. ^ What is Magic Realism Art, accessed March 22, 2015
  4. ↑ Kenneth Reeds: Magical Realism: A problem of definition. In: Neophilologus, Vol. 90 (2006), No. 2, p. 179.
  5. abcdefGHiElia Tabuenca (UNED): Realismo magico: autores y obras representativas. In: unprofessional, November 29, 2018, accessed October 10, 2020 (Spanish).
  6. ↑ Gene Wolfe, Brendan Barber: Gene Wolfe interview. In: Peter Wright (Ed.): Shadows of the New Sun. Wolfe on Writing, Writers on Wolfe. Liverpool University Press, Liverpool 2007, p. 132 (online):
    "Magic realism is fantasy written by people who speak Spanish."
  7. ↑ Linda Richards: January Interview: Terry Pratchett. In: January Magazine, 2002. Retrieved June 24, 2010.
  8. ↑ Amelia Castilla: Martha Cerda recrea el México de María Félix en una novela. In: El País, October 27, 1998, accessed October 9, 2020 (Spanish):
    “Mi novela trata de romper las leyes naturales en el texto, nada que ver con el surgimiento de cosas insólitas en la vida cotidiana como sucede en el realismo mágico.”
  9. ↑ Michael Rössner: Hybridity as 'Anti-Macondismo': Paradigm Shift in Latin American Literature at the Turn of the Millennium? In: Alfonso de Toro, Cornelia Sieber, Claudia Gronemann, René Caballo (eds.): Estrategias de la hibridez to America Latina. Frankfurt, New York 2007, pp. 395-407.
  10. abcdefGHijklmRafael Bayce: Realismo magico. In: Hugo Edgardo Biagini, Arturo Andrés Roig (eds.): Diccionario del pensamiento alternativo. Biblos, Buenos Aires 2008, ISBN 978-950-786-653-1, pp. 442-444.
  11. abMilton Hermes Rodrigues (UEM): Antecedentes conceituais e ficcionais do realismo magico no Brasil. In: Revista Letras (UFPR), No. 79 (September / October 2009), pp. 119-135.
  12. ↑ Miguel Castro: Interview: "Escribo sobre mujeres, no (solo) para mujeres". In: Trierian friend of the people, November 3, 2016, accessed on October 10, 2020 (Interview with Gioconda Belli, who only wants to assign herself to Realismo Magico to a limited extent; Spanish).
  13. ↑ Mariela Rodríguez: Macondismo. In: Hugo E. Biagini, Arturo Andrés Roig (eds.): Diccionario del pensamiento alternativo. Biblos, Buenos Aires 2008, ISBN 978-950-786-653-1, pp. 321-323.

Media used on this page