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Reviewed by:
  • Gabriel García Márquez and Ovid. Magical and Monstrous Realities by Lorna Robinson
  • Liliana Wendorff
Robinson, Lorna. Gabriel García Márquez and Ovid. Magical and Monstrous Realities. Rochester: Tamesis, 2013. 188pp.

In this book Lorna Robinson takes Gabriel García Márquez’s Cien años de soledad as a basis for exploring magical realism in Ovid’s Metamorphoses. In her introduction, Robinson gives an excellent lengthy history of the term “magical realism,” from the arts to a modern technological world. Robinson is aware that applying this term to the Metamorphoses, many centuries before it becomes a literary phenomenon, might seem anachronistic, but she argues that both the Metamorphoses and Cien años de soledad reveal a blending of the magical and the real; an intricate plotting of mythical worlds; and powerful storytelling.

The first chapter, “Telling Tales,” establishes the basic elements for generating magical realism. With copious examples, Robinson demonstrates how García Márquez and Ovid produce the effect of magical realism in their respective works. The outcome, she argues, arises from confusion, which in turn creates doubt and disorientation in the reader. The combination of both magical and mundane events produces “strangeness” in the texts. This sense of oddness is further developed in the second chapter, “Points of View,” in which the author points out that both texts show sympathy towards the beliefs and behaviors of their characters. These worldviews are tied to the characters’ psychology and include animism and natural phenomena with its own powers –i.e. time as a human entity, sentient rain, anthropomorphic deities. While Ovid’s pseudo-credulous exposition of various popular myths generates the discomfort of a magical realist work, García Márquez incorporates the convictions of Indian communities to show their primitive supernatural conceptions of the world. [End Page 143]

In fact, the critic argues, both the insomnia plague (with biblical allusions) in Cien años de soledad and the melting women in the Metamorphoses embody accounts of magical realism. In the third chapter, “Fertile Ground,” Robinson responds to Latin American scholars who have asserted that the peculiarity of their nations, history and landscape are the cause of magical realism. She points out that García Márquez’s use of the plague is in fact a metaphor for the destruction of Indian cultures by the Spanish and criollo population. Certainly, this episode can also be read as the loss of an oral culture, which García Márquez experienced when he left his grandparents’ household in Aracataca, in order to study in the highlands. The insomnia plague, the critic argues, also represents preoccupation with the instability of memory. On the other hand, the liquefied females of the Metamorphoses, according to Robinson, manifest Ovid’s desire to merge his characters with nature, and the episode shows a clash between the uneducated oral culture of most ancient Romans and a literary world.

In the last chapter, “More Than Words Can Say,” the author investigates the aesthetic effects of magical realism. Following Franz Roh’s assertion that “the new form of realism lay in its attitude of wonder at the world” (128), Robinson postulates that inside this realism there is an attempt to locate infinity in small things, while not illuminating the inner mechanism of magic realism’s formula. By drawing comparisons between the characters from the Metamorphoses and Cien años de soledad, the author concludes that Ovid’s adoption of extreme imagery as a way of transmitting an emotional response tends to narrow the presentation of a character at the sacrifice of realism, while García Márquez’s magical realism allows us to understand reality free from the chains of traditional realism. With these and other arguments, Robinson crafts a convincing analysis of a well-studied topic that will certainly attract the attention of scholars interested in magical realism, in a new globalized era.

Liliana Wendorff
Queens University of Charlotte


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pp. 143-144
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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