January´s Book Club - On Magical Realism
What better way of starting off this year´s #bookclub than with one of my favourite genres - magical realism? I grew acquainted with magical realism first through Gabriel García Marquez. I got to love it through Mihail Bulghakov. And finally I got to obsess about it through Haruki Murakami. If I were to live my life in a book, it would definitely be a magical realism novel. This probably doesn´t come as a shock coming from someone whose blog is called #choiceofmagic .
The three books I chose for this month are all wonderful, all different and all magical in their own way and I hope they´ll inspire you to dive into this wonderful style yourself. One note about magical realism novels is that they´re typically longer than usual novels since the stories often span across generations and transcend time. As such, three books was the most I managed to read this month. Next month is a bit more ambitious. Can you guess the topic for February´s book club?
1. Gabriel García Marquez - One Hundred Years of Solitude
Magical realism is deeply rooted in Latin American culture and Marquez truly is the godfather of it. One Hundred Years of Solitude is a book that transcends time, telling a century long story of the Buendía family. Living in Macondo, in a house that stubbornly rejects all the repairs that desperate family members keep succumbing it to, the Buendía family is cursed to relive history. Plagues of insomnia and never ending rains come and go. Family members get born and die, often at the exact moment they decide to. Children are obsessively named Aureliano and José Arcadio as their grandfathers. War comes and goes and so does industry. And yet, the town remains unchanged, slowly fulfilling a gipsy prophecy that is only revealed to the reader in the final pages, which coincide with the final moments of the Buendía family saga. One Hundred Years of Solitude is the most magic example of magical realism there is, and if you won´t love it with all your heart and soul, then this genre might just not be for you.
"...a century of cards and experience had taught her that the history of the family was a machine with unavoidable repetitions, a turning wheel that would have gone on spilling into eternity were it not for the progressive and irremediable wearing of the axle."
2. Virginia Woolf - Orlando
Orlando is no easy book, let me tell you that. A journey that transcends time and space, and often reason, it needs proper care and dedication when reading. It is a wonderful ode to Vita Sackville-West, Virginia´s lover and friend. Published in 1928, the book is considered a feminist classic and an important resource in gender and transgender studies as it walks the reader through the adventures of Orlando, a poet who suddenly and magically transforms from man to woman and lives for centuries, meeting the key figures of English literary history. What I liked best about this book is Virginia´s choice to write it as a biography, and her indisputable omnipresence throughout the novel.
"The morning after, as they sat at breakfast, he told her his name. [...] "I knew it!" she said, for there was something romantic and chivalrous, passionate, melancholy, yet determined about him which went with the wild, dark-plumed name - a name which had, in her mind, the steel blue gleam of rooks´ wings, the hoarse laughter of their caws, the snake-like twisting descent of their feathers in a silver pool, and a thousand other things which will be described presently."
3. Isabel Allende - The House of the Spirits
The final magical realism novel that I´ve started (and have not finished yet) is Isabel Allende´s House of the Spirits. I can already foresee how difficult it´ll be to switch to next month´s topic after this book since all that I want to read for the rest of my life are Isabel Allende´s books. The woman is a genius and you cannot start reading her books soon enough. The House of the Spirits is a wonderful tale of family, magic, imagination and relentlessness - good and bad. Isabel Allende started writing it as a letter to her dying grandfather and despite it being her first novel it ended up being a huge success. The book centers around Clara, an imaginative and powerful clairvoyant girl and Esteban, a cruel and volatile man that you´ll love and hate as you read on. While I am only about halfway through, I am absolutely enamoured with how Allende combines stories of post-colonial social and political upheavals of Chile (though the country´s name is never revealed) with magical elements of moving objects and seeing the future.
"She was one of those people who was born for the greatness of a single love, for exaggerated hatred, for apocalyptic vengeance, and for the most sublime forms of heroism but she was unable to shape her fate to the dimensions of her amorous vocation, so it was lived out as something flat and grey trapped between her mother's sickroom walls, wretched tenements, and the tortured confessions with which this large, opulent, hot-blooded woman made for maternity, abundance, action, and ardor- was consuming herself."