Categoría: Investigación en Educación

Artículo de reflexión

Macondo is more dangerous than you think: reading magical realism in Children’s Literature with a postcolonial lens

Lina Rojas Narváez

Profesora, Gimnasio Campestre

Correspondencia al autor:

Recibido: 21 de marzo de 2023 

Aceptado: 5 de mayo de 2023



The present essay is a literature review of the label magical realism in children’s literature. The principal aim is to explore this literary corpus with a postcolonial framework and to expose how the (mis)representation of Latin America and Latin community can influence critical literacies that are social justice-oriented through the reading. Therefore, this text explores the idea of magical realism, its roots, development, and some examples that are present in the contemporary literature for the youth.

Key words: Magical Realism, Critical Literacies, Postcolonialism, Latin America, Children’s and YA Literature

El presente ensayo es una revisión del estado del arte de la etiqueta realismo mágico en la literatura para niños. El objetivo es explorar el corpus literario con un marco teórico poscolonial y exponer como la (mal)interpretación de Latino América y la comunidad Latina puede influenciar el alfabetismo crítico que tiene una influencia hacia la justicia social a través de la lectura. Para esto, este texto explora la idea del realismo mágico, sus inicios, desarrollo y algunos ejemplos presentes en la literatura contemporánea para jóvenes.

Palabras clave: Realismo mágico, Alfabetismo crítico, Poscolonialismo, Latino América, Literatura Infantil y Juvenil

Las redes sociales son un claro ejemplo de cómo los medios tecnológicos han empezado a transformar la sociedad

The lack of clarity about this concept can be linked with one of the main problems that the same term has: there is not a specific definition of it as a literary genre or style (Zamora & Faris 1995, Warner 2009, Reeds 2013). For doing that, is necessary to stablish that magical realism is not a Latin-American product, but rather an ‘international commodity’ (Zamora & Faris, 1995, p. 2). Therefore, magical realism can, and has been, used by authors all around the globe.

The term was first coined in 1925 by Franz Roh in an essay about post-expressionist artists in Germany. In his essay, Roh does not define what he understands as magical realism, leaving an open gap for other critics to appropriate the term and use it in other contexts, predominantly in literary studies. (Guenther, 1995, p. 62). Throughout the twentieth century, magical realism was related to Latin-America’s literary production, primarily with regards to critics like Venezuelan writer Arturo Uslar-Pietri and Cuban writer Alejo Carpentier; both influenced by the literary discussions taking place during the 1940s in Europe (Guenther, 1995, p 61). In parallel, Carpentier touched upon notions of Marvellous Realism in two essays(1949 & 1975) further exploring this concept as cultural identity in relation to Latin American territories (Zamora & Faris, 1995, p. 7).

All these uses of the term create a complex discussion surrounding the meaning of magical realism. Other scholars have talked about similar themes using other labels to these characteristics, such as metafisica (metaphysical) by de Chirico and Carra in Italy; or Neue Sachlichkeit (New Objectivity) by German avant-garde artists, or even the fantástico (fantastic) by Borges and others (Guenther, 1995, p. 62).

As it was mentioned before, Carpentier touched upon notions of ‘Marvellous Realism’, for Carpentier marvellous realism is the Latin American answer to the European trends, taking a step aside of the magical realism from Chirico, the surrealism from Breton and another avant-garde movement. In marvellous realism, the narrator is who introduce the belwilment leading the implied reader to see the fantastic in the narration. With his proposal, some critics, like Parkinson Zamora & Faris, divided the magical realism and the marvellous realism identifying the last one as cultural identity concerning Latin American territories (1995, p. 7).

To summarize, there is also other type of fantastic narrations for children and young readers that can be labelled as magical realism, that are not called as such because they do not reference Latin America (the territories or the people) and therefore, they are just labelled as fantasy, for example, Skelling (2009) by the North-American author David Almond. Where a man with long wing appears in the life of a young boy. This character has a noticeable influence from the short story “A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings” by Gabriel García Marquez who, as I said before, is one of the most notorious authors of magical realism. Despite of this, Almond’s book does not classify as a magical realism narration.

The label Magical Realism is not only applicable to the idea of Latin-America, is not the way that this vast territory writes or talks about fantasy and is not a marketing label to attract tourist to a colonial territory. The lack of clarity in this concept exhorts us to be more critical about the (mis)use of it. This is a wider topic up for discussion, and a growing literary corpus currently explored from multiple perspectives. Further research around this subject should propose a more precise definition of magical realism as a way to develop a quantitative and qualitative identification about the corpus, considering the information about the context of these publications, the distribution of these works, and the content of their narrations.


Alcubierre, B. 2014, “May Everyone Really Mean Everyone: Interpreting Reality through Our Own Patterns”, Bookbird: A Journal of International Children’s Literature, vol. 52, no. 3, pp. v-x.

Barrenechea, A.M. 2002, “La crisis del contrato mimético en los textos contemporáneos (1982)”, Revista Iberoamericana, vol. 68, no. 200, pp. 765-768.

Barry, A. L. (1998, May). Hispanic Representation in Literature for Children and Young Adults. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 41(8), 630–637. Retrieved from

Bullen, E. & Parsons, E. 2007, “Risk and Resilience, Knowledge and Imagination: The Enlightenment of David Almond’s Skellig”, Children’s Literature, vol. 35, no. 1, pp. 127-144.

Diaz, F. H. (2017). Realism and magic in Latin American children’s books. In The Routledge Companion to International Children’s Literature (pp. 31–38). essay, London, UK: Routledge.

González, A. (2018). Introduction in Postcolonial Approaches to Latin American Childrens Literature. Routledge.

Guenther, I. (1995). ic Realism, New Objectivity, and the Arts during the Weimar Republic. In Magical Realism: Theory, History, Community (pp. 33–73). essay, Duke University Press.

Hammer, Y. 2006, “Defining Magical Realism in Children’s Literature: Voices in Contemporary Fugue, Texts That Speak from the Margins”, Papers: Explorations into Children’s Literature, vol. 16, no. 2, pp. 64-70.

Harper, G. (1997). As If By Magic: World Creation in Postcolonial Children’s Literature. ARIEL: A Review of International English Literature28(1), 39–52.

Igarashi, H. & Saito, H. 2014, “Cosmopolitanism as Cultural Capital: Exploring the Intersection of Globalization, Education and Stratification”, Cultural Sociology, vol. 8, no. 3, pp. 222-239.

Nikolajeva, M. 2003, “Fairy Tale and Fantasy: From Archaic to Postmodern”, Marvels & Tales, vol. 17, no. 1, pp. 138-156

Rudge, I. 2004, “Magic realism in children’s literature: A narratological reading”, New Review of Children’s Literature and Librarianship, vol. 10, no. 2, pp. 127-140.


Todorov, T. (1970) The Fantastic

Vasquez, V.M., Tate, S.L. & Harste, J.C. 2013, Negotiating critical literacies with teachers: theoretical foundations and pedagogical resources for pre-service and in-service contexts, Routledge, New York, NY.

Young, R. J. C. 2010, ¿Qué es la crítica poscolonial? Nuevas Aproximaciones Criticas Al Derecho En Sociedad, 281–294.

Zamora Parkinson, L., & Faris, W. B. (1995). Introduction: Daiquiri Birds and Flaubertian Parrot(ie)s. In Magical Realism. Theory, History, Community (pp. 1–11). Duke University Press.