Imagine a story in which the main character loses his nose, that nose becomes a man, and that man walks the streets of St. Petersburg. This is what happens in Nicolai Gogol’s short story, ‘The Nose’ — the nose that, on its own, lives, breathes, walks, and dresses in finery and that fact doesn’t shock a single character. It is this existence of fantastic elements in the real world that provide the basis for magical realism. It is ‘real’ because it takes place in the real world and ‘magic’ because it incorporates emotions, dreams and fantasies as part of the real world. But wait! Isn’t this what fantasy is all about?
Fantasy is considered a different genre because it takes place in an unreal world but magic realism depicts the real world as having an undercurrent of magic. Have you ever encountered a funhouse mirror at carnivals or fairs? It’s amusing as it presents people as distorted with short and round, long and tall twisted bodies. Such distorted images from the real life often stick to our memory for long. This is what magic realism does. By placing magical elements and their distortions in reality, it pulls the readers directly into the story. So what are these elements of magical realism? Is the term just a variation of the fantasy genre? What purpose does it serve for writers? Can they share some social and political views behind the garb of magical elements to make a point about reality? Find out answers to these interesting questions and much more in this module.