Culturally-significant texts – Across genres, across the ages


Magical Realism

Love in the Time of Cholera

Love in the Time of Cholera
Gabriel Garcia Marquez

First off, whatever you do, do NOT watch the movie. Please.

Garcia Marquez’ reflection on love and heartache is, with his Hundred Years of Solitude, the Nobel prize-winner’s best-known work and a classic of modern literature. Less ‘magical realist’ than his Hundred Years of Solitude, it is a book known more for its mastery of language, the depth and beauty of its storytelling than for the story itself. Continue reading “Love in the Time of Cholera”


Midnight’s Children

Midnight’s Children
Salman Rushdie

12:00 midnight of August 15, 1947, Saleem Sinai was born – precisely the moment of India’s independence and partition. Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children tells the story of India since partition through the story of Saleem, his life unfolding as an allegory for history of the nation.

The challenges of nation-building, the legacy of colonialism, the question of identity in a place of religious and political diversity, multiculturalism and multilingualism in the struggle for national unity, memory and collective amnesia in the construction of a national story, a national mythology – the novel explores these and more through the devices of both historical fiction and magical realism.

Rushdie’s story of colonization, freedom and statehood is recognized as one of the most significant novels of the late twentieth century, and a foundational text of post-colonial literature. Protagonist and telepath Saleem Sinai is – with all other children born in the hour of India’s birth as a nation – the new country made human, personal embodiment of India, its promise, its faltering, its transition from idea to state.

Like Water for Chocolate

Like Water for Chocolate
Laura Esquivel

Como Agua Para Chocolate, as it is titled in the original Spanish, is by no means the best of Latin American magical realism, nor was it the first to receive international acclaim and attention. Others on this list, most notably Gabriel Garcia Marquez’ Hundred Years of Solitude and Isabel Allende’s House of the Spirits are have received far more critical praise, and even these find earlier inspiration in the writings of Jorge Luis Borges and Alejo Carpentier. Like Water for Chocolate, though, did two things: one, it attracted a mass audience in a way that even the best-known of its predecessors did not; and 2) it played a major role in the english-speaking world’s “rediscovery” of Mexico in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Passionate and mouth-watering, Like Water for Chocolate is the story of a young Mexican woman who is unable to pursue a life with her lover and instead must devote herself to the care of her aging mother. Her unfulfilled emotions, and her strong eroticism in particular, are poured into her cooking, and the book is structured as 12 chapters following the months of the year, each based around a particular recipe.

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