“You’ve done in about forty-five minutes what it took literary critics years of arguing to solve,” I told them. “Magical realism” is a marketing term more than anything, but my students got what García Márquez was getting at in the course of a paragraph. Take something wild and tell it truthfully, as if it were happening to real people. Because wild things are happening to us all the time. Their versions of the story were principally about thematic differences—aliens make it sci-fi, princesses make it fairy-tale—but this was about technique. “Genre” might not be the most useful term. I asked “What’s it about,” and they answered the far more interesting question “What’s he doing?”
In today’s newsletter, how to teach magical realism to undergraduates with an beginner-to-intermediate level of Spanish, and why it’s weird that there are palm trees outside the Argentine executive mansion.