Roisín O’Donnell looks at the new wave of magic realism among Irish writers.

From other realms: magical realism in Irish literary fiction

By Roisín O’Donnell


Like all great poets, Eleanor Hooker is a tremendous storyteller. At a recent reading she reminisced about taking her children out on the lake, where she would pretend that clumps of reeds were ‘dinosaur nests’, scaring the children witless. As she spoke, I felt a glow of recognition at childhood rendered magical. My granddad used to tell me that he had a monster called Ebenezer living under his stairs, inspiring the first story in my collection Wild Quiet. There is a type of writing that perfectly captures this juxtaposition of reality and magic.

First used in the 1920s by German art critic Franz Roh, ‘magical realism’ originally referred to a style of painting in which naturalistic still lives were imbued with a ‘sense of unreality’. Most commonly used in fiction to refer to the Latin American renaissance of the 1960s, the term has since become a global phenomenon. In magical realist fiction, stories are interwoven with elements of magic, fable, allegory and the supernatural. Think of an entire town driven to insomnia by the fragrance of roses (The Sea of Lost Time,, Gabriel Garcia Marquez), a boy who finds tiny holes in his belly and realises that he is disappearing (Malcom Orange Disappears, Jan Carson) or a murder mystery narrated by a lizard (Under the Frangipani, Mia Couto). […]

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March/April 2017 (issue no.372) 

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