Magical Realism as a Lifestyle

By: Linda Villamarín

Illustration by: Madeline Forrey

“Once she had seen them fluttering about her head before she went into the movies. But when Mauricio Babilonia began to pursue her like a ghost that only she could identify in the crowd, she understood that the butterflies had something to do with him”

I paused my reading to think. Poor Meme. She’d been denying the yellow aura of butterflies, which, like him, announced the arrival of the magic. I judged her in silence, denying with my head, even while holding the book. Magic has interesting ways of arriving. I couldn’t understand how she didn't notice. And although it became easy for me to identify the fantasy in the book, I was unable to recognize that, around me, golden flaps were lifting me up.

I continued reading...

“The yellow butterflies would invade the house at dusk. Every night on her way back from her bath Meme would find a desperate Fernanda killing butterflies with an insecticide bomb. ‘This is terrible,’ she would say, ‘All my life they told me that butterflies at night bring bad luck.’”

I stopped reading and looked up. I didn’t see anything in particular, like after tasting food, when one looks up to the sky, trying to taste better, in a small and intimate visual conversation with heaven, confirming sensations.

Then I closed the book and the feeling of the flaps that gave me air and followed me remained. I kept thinking, trying to be rational, and thought, “This doesn't make any sense.” And the butterflies--my butterflies--disappeared along with the magic that, for two seconds, had so warmly lifted me up. I don't know how many people saw the butterflies around me, how many I suffocated with my magic while I convinced myself that I must be logical.

I started reading that book with writer’s eyes, identifying the rules of writing perfectly applied. However, every few pages, I would need to stop analyzing and trying to understand, as if I was reading a formula. I wasn't reading a scientific essay; I was reading magical realism. And without realizing it, every time I finished a chapter, some of that magic stayed with me.

“It was the butterflies. Meme saw them as if they had suddenly been born out of the light and her heart gave a turn.”

Suddenly, I learned to feel them too. I let them fly freely and tried to let them flow through my writings. That magic, which at first didn't make sense because I didn’t understand it logically, gradually became part of my reality. It affected the way I wrote, how I felt, and how I perceived the world.

I carried One Hundred Years of Solitude in my purse for weeks, like it was my Bible. It was the fantastic medicine that made me feel magical realism as my lifestyle, because I applied it to everything I did. It made me keep my feet on the ground without taking my eyes off the stars and lifted me up whenever I wanted.

When I finished reading this wonderful book, I was left with the feeling that the yellow butterflies that surrounded me, which represented the magic I believed in, were going to need a channel to get out of me, otherwise they would die. I needed to keep reading, keep creating, writing, feeling. That was my way of letting them fly and illuminating myself.

That little impulse of fantasy turned into sparkle fuel for me, to create, to dream, without being logical and to write wonderful texts. The things that came out when I allowed myself not to be woken up from that magical reality, so sweet and ephemeral, are the works that I have liked and enjoyed the most.

Magic doesn't come one day when you're sitting on the couch, your mind suddenly lighting up. The magic is already there, but you need to find a way to let it fly. It is necessary to believe a little in fantasy, to let ourselves be infected by impossible ideas, but above all, to let them come out of us, not to get rid of them, but to give them wings, so they can fly to the world and to touch others.

Imagine how many masterpieces we would have missed if those geniuses we believe in had not let their butterflies out. What is the way we are allowing ours to fly? Writing, dancing, singing, traveling, playing an instrument?

We must finally accept fantasy, dreams, and magic as part of our reality, because magic is not eternal. It does not reach us every day, it is not a shadow, it does not live forever if we do not believe in it. As Gabriel Garcia Marquez would say:

“Wherever they might be they always remember that the past was a lie, that memory has no return, that every spring gone by could never be recovered, and that the wildest and most tenacious love was an ephemeral truth in the end.”

WWBL Author