The literary world lost a tremendous presence yesterday when Gabriel García Márquez, the Nobel Prize–winning author of such works as One Hundred Years of Solitude and Love in the Time of Cholera, died at the age of 87.
While Márquez is generally considered the master of magical realism, in which minor magical or fantastical elements exist without explanation in an otherwise normal world, other authors such as Sarah Addison Allen and Haruki Murakami employ magical realism in most or all of their work.
Isabel Allende’s The House of the Spirits is a Chile-set family saga in which the youngest del Valle daughter, Clara, has unexplained powers.
Like Water for Chocolate, both the novel by Laura Esquivel and its film adaptation, features a wedding cake baked by a lovelorn woman that dramatically affects those who eat it.
Baked goods also played a big role in the much-lauded but quickly cancelled TV show Pushing Daisies, in which a pie-maker who can raise the dead falls in love with a woman he can never touch.
A developing affection for a woman who’s not interested in touching him is just one of the problems plaguing Bill Murray’s weatherman character in Groundhog Day. Set in Punxsutawney, PA, on the titular holiday, the film shows a world that is undeniably, resolutely unmagical, except for the fact that it’s February 2 every single day.
In The Purple Rose of Cairo, Cecilia’s (Mia Farrow) life in Depression-era New Jersey is awfully bleak, which is why she escapes to the cinema as often as possible. Then one day, the leading man steps out of the screen and into her life. It’s a motif that also appears in the Beautiful South’s video for “Dream a Little Dream.”
Both Jaye Tyler in the short-lived TV series Wonderfalls and Amélie Poulain, heroine of the eponymous film, have developed comfortable routines in their lives and have little motivation to get out of their ruts until, in the first, items in the Niagara Falls souvenir shop where she works begin talking to her, and in the latter, Amélie decides to bring a little bit of magic into people’s lives and reaps far more than she sows.
In Chocolat, both Joanne Harris’s novel and the film starring Juliette Binoche and Johnny Depp, a traveling candymaker comes to a small French town and changes its inhabitants’ lives with a lot of chocolate and a little magic.
This list, of course, barely scratches the surface of the myriad novels, films, and television shows that exhibit magical realism, of course. Please chime in with your favorites in the comments!