magic(al) realism

Discipline: Art


A term first used by German art historian FRANZ ROH (1890-1965) in reference to Post-Impressionism.

Roh sought to distinguish this style of German painting from other contemporary objective styles (for example, neue sachlichkeit) current in the 1920s. Precise realism is contrasted with a mood of fantasy and the juxtaposition of incongruous details, as also seen in Metaphysical or Surrealist art (see: surrealism).

The term was extended to fiction in 1952 by the Austrian novelist GEORGE SAIKO (1892-1962). It describes a quasi-surrealist technique of writing in which clearly delineated realism is juxtaposed with fantasy, dreams and myths; and in which complicated narratives and shifts of time-sphere are common. The effect is often bizarre, puzzling or shocking. The leading exponent is held to be the Argentinian fiction-writer JORGE LUIS BORGES (1899-1988).

W Schmied, Neue Sachlichkeit und Magischer Realismus in Deutschland 1918-1933 (Hanover, 1969)
G Saiko, Die Wirklichkeit hat doppenlten Boden. Gedanken turn magischen Realismus (1952)


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