In the broadest sense, magical realism is a type of literary fiction that embeds magical elements into an otherwise realistic setting. However, it differs from science fiction and fantasy because the magical elements are simply part of an otherwise ordinary story, and they are accepted as normal and common.
In the past few years, I have had a particular interest in novels that use magical elements to symbolize or highlight a psychological struggle. In this manner magical realism can serve several purposes:
- The Objective Correlative: The magical elements can reflect emotions without directly telling us how a character feels at a crucial moment.
- Interest: Magical realism can provide a point of interest in a story that is otherwise about a mundane part of human existence.
- Psychological Struggle: Magical elements can also be used to precipitate or directly reflect a psychological struggle in a character. In this case, the magical elements are usually only experienced by the character during their moments of struggle.
Books that Use Magical Realism to Explore a Psychological Struggle
Here are six books that use magical realism to explore a psychological struggle. These books reflect a diversity of experiences and perspectives. It is definitely not an exhaustive list, so if I’m missing your favourite book, then share it in the comments section.
Each book is linked to a description that will hopefully entice you to try something new, and two of them are affiliate links.
- Beloved – Toni Morrison
- Swamplandia! – Karen Russell
- Son of a Trickster – Eden Robinson
- Life of Pi – Yann Martel
- A Tale for the Time Being – Ruth Ozeki
- Killing Commendatore – Haruki Murakami