The Genius of Rushdie and Marquez Why are Salman Rushdie and Gabriel García Márquez, such extraordinary novelists? The answer is complex. But there is a reason for their unique achievement. The answer is that apart from what virtually every great novelist does – telling the story in a new way in a new vocabulary – they also write in a mode which is hellishly difficult. This mode of narration is called Magical Realism.
The Oversimplification of Magical Realism Rushdie oversimplifies this mode called magical realism, by defining it as the improbable presented mundanely. That is just the tail of magical realism. The reality of magical realism is intricately connected with the tale on which it is harnessed. It relates more to feeling than to thought. There is, however, a perpetual undercurrent of thought in it. The magical part relates to the feeling because one can have any kind of feeling. But the thought which is often related to some form of oppression is opposed in the true voice of feeling.
The Difficulty with Magical Realism The real hurdle in the way of making the improbable seem mundane is that the novel is to be read by adults. These adults have grown up to believe that the world is to be understood rationally. Further, there is a limit to which someone can willingly suspend their disbelief. When you read about a historical setting and try to explain it through fantasy you are going against the grain of history. Besides, in doing that you are also presenting something that is normally not taken seriously. You need to tell the tale like a grandmother tells tales to children. The grandmother’s task though is much simpler because children are much simpler than adults. They are more innocent and also easy to befool. But to explain how magical realism probably works, let me use analogies from Wordsworth and Shakespeare.
A Child is the Father of the Man Wordsworth considered a child to be the father of the man. More than one explanation has been offered to make sense of this concept. Perhaps Wordsworth meant that a child is uncorrupted by social values and therefore knows more than grown-ups. If that be the case, then we can take this line of thought much further. We can say that a child need not accept everything given to it by science, philosophy, or another epistemological source. A child, if not subjected to social pressures, can find entirely original ways of understanding the world. It can indeed even find greater rewards in the extra-rational than the rational, the non-oppressive than the oppressive, the force of feeling rather than the practicality of thought.
The Rational Valuation System is Faulty We give value to what we consider great. For instance, we respect a crown which is, in fact, no more than a shape. Shakespeare tells us that there are two crowns in an egg; just divide it into two parts. Society has taught us to believe in things that we consider rational but their rationality could be baseless. Children therefore often come up with some brilliant comments that set us thinking. That is why you must never lose your inner child. The reader of magical realism has to be treated somewhat like a child is treated by a grandmother.
The Reader of a Magical Realist Novel In a magical realist novel, the reader has to be given a good story but he has to be reduced to the level of a child and then given the improbable story in a mundane manner. Doing that is difficult indeed. For you need to force down the throat of the reader something that they find difficult to swallow. The narrator of such a novel has to be carefully created if the novel is narrated in the first person, or as the novelist would tell the story.
Creating Faith in the Reader Furthermore, the novelist will have to use every gimmick to convince the reader that they are in serious business not only being fooled. Creating faith in the reader is what every novelist does but the magical realist does in a far greater measure. This is what Rushdie and Marquez manage to do and this is why Rushdie and Marquez are such extraordinary novelists. They are simply brilliant for the manner that they choose to change the perception of readers while they are in the process of taking in the novel.