The best books of Latin American magical realism

Daniel Loedel Author Of Hades, Argentina
By Daniel Loedel

The Books I Picked & Why

One Hundred Years of Solitude

By Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Book cover of One Hundred Years of Solitude

Why this book?

This is the iconic novel of Latin American magical realism, the one that most typifies what the genre is in people’s minds. But that’s not to say it’ll feel familiar or predictable; to the contrary, no book is more full of surprises, more original on every page than this story of a family over a hundred years in the legendary down of Macondo. Curses, angels, forbidden love, guerilla war, and the renewing and obliterating power of time—all that and much more are in this classic epic that created what we understand to be magical realism.


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Pedro Páramo

By Juan Rulfo, Margaret Sayers Peden

Book cover of Pedro Páramo

Why this book?

Garcia Marquez famously claimed to have memorized Pedro Páramo, making it in some ways the actual cornerstone of Latin American magical realism. A strange, haunting novel about a man in search of his father, Pedro Páramo, who finds himself in a ghost town and listening to the memories of phantasms, this book is a spectral, beautiful story with mystifying power. It was probably the chief influence for my own novel which similarly follows a young man into a ghost world of the past.


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Ficciones

By Jorge Luis Borges, Anthony Bonner

Book cover of Ficciones

Why this book?

The Argentine literary icon’s mode of magical realism is perhaps the most different from others, the one that stands most apart. Couched in history and intellectualism, many of his stories read at first as essays until they dart into some realm of the fantastical to make a startling point about identity, storytelling, or human existence. No writer uses the far reaches of the possible to make you think more than Borges.


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Fever Dream

By Samanta Schweblin, Megan McDowell

Book cover of Fever Dream

Why this book?

Originally titled Distancia de Rescate (“The Rescue Distance”), this novel which blends contemporary concerns of environmental catastrophe with the magic of psychics and haunted children is truly a feverish reading experience, one which you will devour in a single sitting and need to restart to understand what was real and what was not.


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Things We Lost in the Fire: Stories

By Mariana Enriquez

Book cover of Things We Lost in the Fire: Stories

Why this book?

Another contemporary book of Latin American magical realism, this one is perhaps subtlest in its surrealism and has most in common with the American Gothic tradition of Edgar Allan Poe. Things We Lost in the Fire reveals to us an Argentina filled with ghosts and haunted houses and satanic rituals while simultaneously bringing the country as it is today to vivid, powerful life. 


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