Magical realism involves the fusion of the real and the fantastic and the transformation of the common and the everyday into the awesome and the unreal. The strictest definition says that only works by Latin American writers qualify as magical realism, but that qualifier is often discarded these days.
Magic realism normalizes or naturalizes supernatural, magical, surrealist, or fantastic narrative elements by contextualizing them with realism–that is, naturalistic, realistic detail and description, or normative terms.
Magical realism is a literary form in which odd, eerie, and dreamlike tales are related as if the events were commonplace. Magic realism is the opposite of the "once-upon-a-time" style of story-telling in which the author emphasizes the fantastic qualities of imaginary events. In the world of magic realism, the narrator speaks of the surreal so naturally it becomes real.
Magic realism in its literary and artistic applications aimed to re-imagine the world and its reality. It is not an escapist venture but rather an opportunity to see the fantastic in the everyday. There are multiple stylistic traits of magic realism. The key, however, is rejection of subjectivity and emotionalism, simultaneity of past, present and future and defamiliarisation.
Often based on folklore or popular myth, it is recognizable by its use of surrealistic elements and as a dense, elegant, whimsical and layered stories with the open-ended conclusion.
The plots of magical realist works involve issues of borders, mixing, and change. Authors establish these plots to reveal a crucial purpose of magical realism: a more deep and true reality than conventional realist techniques would illustrate.
Though today magical realism, as a literary current, is flourishing, its roots go back to the beginning of the last century with authors such as Kafka with Metamorphosis. Nowadays, this literary current is embraced and has spread world wide.
Authors such as Allende with The Stories of Eva Luna or the House of the Spirits, and ultimately One Hundred Years of Solitude of Garcia Marquez, praise rustic environments with events and surprises where the abnormal translates into the ordinary. In magical realist literature the reality is twisted beyond imagination.
Its distinguishing feature from literary realism is that it fuses the two opposing aspects of the oxymoron together to form one new perspective. Because it breaks down the distinction between the usually opposing terms of the magical and the realist, magical realism is often considered to be a disruptive narrative mode.
Magical realism has become a popular narrative mode because it offers to the writer wishing to write against totalitarian regimes a means to attack the definitions and assumptions which support such systems (e.g. colonialism) by attacking the stability of the definitions upon which these systems rely. This is the key to its recent popularity in Latin America and the postcolonial English-speaking world.