The term is frequently misunderstood and abused. 

"Magical realism" is the artful interweaving of unlikely, even impossible events with recognizably real experiences and situations; the techniques is not solely the brainchild of Garcia Marquez. Both the term and the practice have a long if scattered history dating back to early twentieth-century literature, art, and criticism. The Colombian's accomplishment consists in his having taken a tangential, uncertain tradition, absorbing it, and giving it a strong profile and a key presence in his work. Among the precedents he most often cites is Kafka's The Metamorphosis (with its apparent discrepancy between narrative tone and the extraordinary events being described.)

Garcia Marquez's magical realism is different from fantasy, the tall tale, and surrealism. First, it should he distinguished from "fantastic literature," a genre that reached a kind of classic status in the short fiction of Borges and Cortazar, both Argentines. In the specific case of "the fantastic,” unreal happenings intrude upon daily life and unsettle the reader, who hesitates as to how to interpret such strange, uncanny doings and indeed may wonder whether they’ve happened at all.

In addition, Garcia Marquez's magic-making is different from the formulaic, escapist "sci-fi fantasy” that we typically associate with cheap, bright-colored paperbacks stocked on resolving racks in mega­stores. Garcia Marquez personally dislikes fantasy: he balks at the facile label "fantastical writer” and defines himself above all as a realist in his art. The term "magical realism" quite obviously juxtaposes two distinct, indeed mutually contradictory strands. What is crucial to Garcia Marquez's art is their deft and vivid fusion in his hands.

The techniques clearly eschews the documentary approach of realist fiction and instead gives expression to the world-view of a rural people living in remote isolation from the modern developed world. However, the magical realism does not imply that Latin American reality is somehow inherently magical. The narrator presents events, not as they actually occurred but as they were perceived and interpreted by the local people. Likewise, the systematic use of hyperbole corresponds to the way in which the popular collective memory blows events up to larger-than-life propor­tions.

Magical realism depends on the intermingling of real and fantastic worlds, and it provides the potential for as many various interpretations as does the work of Kafka. For some readers, the technique leads to allegory; for others, it recounts the destructive, alienating influence on Latin American society; for others, it depicts essential human loneliness and the failure to communicate--even in love; for still others, it is a "total fiction" peculiarly valid for intricate repetitive patterns that refer to folklore and real life but finally create only a fictional universe. Each interpretation draws on the blurring of real and unreal worlds, so that realistic facts become the basis for fiction and fictional manip­ulation liberates our perspective on reality--a typically modernist method of using the imagination to encourage historical change.

Our first impression of Marquez’s work is that it functions very close to allegory—specific elements in the stories seem to be functioning in the upper case--while at the same time it retains some qualities of the tall tale. Though both of these elements are certainly present, the story's method is in no way easy to describe. Magical realism provokes something that all good fiction provokes, a recognition of the infinite suggestibility of language, but does so in particularly observable and enchanting ways. Marquez has said that everything he writes has its source in something that actually happened and that fiction is "reality represented through a secret code." One of the most observable tendencies of his magical realism is the use of the "secret code" of his language to lead the reader--within a sentence, from sentence to sentence, from paragraph to paragraph--to places that no reader could have expected to be. He has said that his "real inclination is to be a conjuror," and indeed, the effect of his writing is to levitate the reader, to lift the reader out of the world of prior expectations and let him or her float giddily for a moment before finding ground again.

Magical realism, in the hands of Garcia Marquez, is a wonderfully supple kind of writing. It penetrates objective reality to reveal the mysterious and poetic qualities that underlie the daily lives of the people and communities it describes. His characters have an aura of woeful futility com­bined with a wonderful innocence that lends them much of their essential charm and virtue as fictional creations.

Throughout One Hundred, magic and reality reinforce, support, and depend on each other. Remedios, the Beauty, rises to heaven while saying good-bye, clinging to the treasured monogrammed sheets of the comically snobbish Fernanda (who proceeds to rave about her lost family linens). The rainstorm that lasts five years is blamed on the banana company and is thus only the latest if biggest out­rage in a lengthy socioeconomic conflict. In these and many other such in­stances, magical events are recounted with a calm objectivity, "with a straight face" (one might say), as if what is being reported were merely one more item in what is an ongoing and endless series.

Other sources of Garcia Marquez's magical-realist imagination are of a local nature and thus are less known to non-Hispanic readers. Among such materials, one must mention the rich, popular culture of his native, Caribbean-coastal Colombia, a fascinating amalgam of African, indige­nous, and Spanish-Galician lore. About its folk legends, home remedies, and far-flung superstitions the author wrote lovingly and frequently dur­ing his days as a greenhorn journalist.