Two years ago if you asked me what magic realism was I would have confidently told you that it was “a creative device where magic elements appear within an otherwise realistic environment.” I was sure I understood the concept. After all I had read Allende, García Marquez and Rushdie, amongst others.
It was only when I moved to Colombia that I realized that I only knew half the story.
There is another element to magic realism that is often overlooked. It is not only that magic is an everyday part of life, but also that mundane things seem magical.
In García Marquez books people speak to the ghosts of their ancestors as if it were the most normal thing in the world. Yet they run screaming down the road possessed like a madwoman at the sight of the first train in Macondo.
Living in Colombia, you come across things every day that are so fantastical that, if you hadn’t seen them with your own eyes, you would think they were fictitious.
I had to cross an Ocean, and travel very far from home, to see that in Ireland we are also surrounded by magic realism.
There was a bridge near my childhood home in Tyrone that people would take long detours to avoid because it was “cursed by the faeries.” Before my sister’s wedding we buried the Child of Prague in the garden… because that’s how you guarantee good weather of course.
One of the most famous characters from my hometown of Strabane was a man called Paddy Gillespie. A true legend if ever there was one.
Paddy was famous for many things: his sporting triumphs, his gift of the gab, his collections and his private museum. But as this film shows, one of the most magical things about him was his gift for invention. You can view the five-minute film here:
Seeing someone ride around on a bike made from an iron bed was the most normal thing in the world. But now I realize it was almost like magic.
Having published my first novel last year, I’m now obsessed with the idea of writing a novel exploring the magic of Ireland, which we Irish think of as so commonplace. I’d love to hear from other Wild Geese members about their experiences of Irish magic realism.