Tag Archives: Ngugi wa Thiongo

Magical Realism in Afro-Literature

The death of Gabriel Garcia Marquez marks the passing of yet another literary giant.  His presence will be missed but his words are guaranteed to live on through his work.  In addition to his most well-known novels Love In The Time of Cholera and 100 Years of Solitude, Marquez left a legacy that is synonymous with the literary genre “magical realism” by effortlessly infusing reality with fantasy.

Magical realism incorporates enchanting or other-world elements into otherwise commonplace stories.  Marquez mastered this art and solidified his presence as one of the greats within the genre.  However, he was not the first to utilize this technique.  Magical elements have historically played a role in African and African-Diaspora literature and story telling.  A quick web-search will reveal countless books, articles and academic papers on the subject.  It’s late, so I’ll spare you the history and instead provide a list of my five favorite novels that feature magical realism.

Add your favorites in the comments below.

Image5) Mama Day by Gloria Naylor

A story, depicting the mysterious Miranda “Mama” Day and her niece Ophelia, that takes place in a fictional island off the coast of Georgia.  It’s reminiscent of a Shakespearean novel and depicts the tragedy and sacrifice between lovers.

Image4) Kindred by Octavia Butler

This bewitching tale follows Dana Franklin as she involuntarily travels through time in an attempt to preserve her lineage and ensure her own survival.  It’s a fast-paced historical novel that secures Butler’s role as the mother of modern science fiction and magical realism.

Image3) The Wizard of the Crow by Ngugi wa Thiong’o

The Wizard of the Crow is as entertaining as it is politically astute.  The story surrounds citizens within a fictional African country ruled by an aging dictator.  In this novel I’m not sure which concepts are more absurd – the magical occurrences or the real  current events from which the story is based . . .

Image2) Beloved by Toni Morrison

Beloved is the story of an escaped slave who is haunted by her past.  Not only is it an epic historical fiction novel, Morrison expertly guides the reader in and out of each character’s psychosis until the line between magic and reality is practically invisible.  Don’t let the (horrible) film adaptation deter you from exploring this novel; this isn’t just about slavery just as it isn’t simply a ghost story.

Image1) The Famished Road by Ben Okri

What is it about the country of Nigeria that produces game-changing authors and pioneers in literature?  Not only is The Famished Road laced with realistic-feeling magical elements, Okri’s writing style is purely enchanting.  The first few chapters of the book are so beautifully written that the novel is spell-binding.  Ben Okri writes like no author I have ever encountered. He’s brilliant, no question, but I’m now convinced there’s wizardry involved!

 

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What She’s Reading: “The Tipping Point” and “Wizard of the Crow”

In a modest effort to increase my monthly nonfiction intake – and also taking advice from this helpful article on enhancing the reading experience http://myhometableau.com/the-one-thing-ive-learned-to-help-me-read-more/ – I’m continuing to experiment with reading two books at the same time.

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Book 1 – “The Tipping Point” by Malcolm Gladwell
I read and loved his in-depth analysis of the patterns of success in “Outliers” and heard great things about this book as well. I’m 155 pages in and so far am not in love with it yet. The stories are interesting (of course) but a few conclusions seem to be drawn from relatively weak links (Paul Revere vs William Dawes and the New York phone book “test” particularly). So far, this book doesn’t seem to be as tightly woven as it’s predecessor but many of the concepts Gladwell presents are – even when seemingly simplistic – paradigm shifting. This is one to check out.

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Book 2 – “Wizard of the Crow: A Novel” by Ngugi wa Thiong’o
This novel has been on my ‘Book Bucket List’ for a few years. To put it simply, the story surrounds a fictitious country in Africa called “Aburiria”. Aburiria, like many countries in the region, is torn by political parties fighting for control of the country and it’s resources. This satire is loaded with symbolism surrounding political and humanitarian themes. I’m only a few pages in but can already sense that I’ll be writing a separate post on this one. Stay tuned; this story is epic.

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