Irish Magic Realism: 'The Inventor' Short Film

Two years ago if you asked me what magic realism was I would have confidently told you that it was “a creative device where magic elements appear within an otherwise realistic environment.” I was sure I understood the concept. After all I had read Allende, García Marquez and Rushdie, amongst others.

It was only when I moved to Colombia that I realized that I only knew half the story.

There is another element to magic realism that is often overlooked. It is not only that magic is an everyday part of life, but also that mundane things seem magical.

In García Marquez books people speak to the ghosts of their ancestors as if it were the most normal thing in the world. Yet they run screaming down the road possessed like a madwoman at the sight of the first train in Macondo.

Living in Colombia, you come across things every day that are so fantastical that, if you hadn’t seen them with your own eyes, you would think they were fictitious.

I had to cross an Ocean, and travel very far from home, to see that in Ireland we are also surrounded by magic realism.

There was a bridge near my childhood home in Tyrone that people would take long detours to avoid because it was “cursed by the faeries.” Before my sister’s wedding we buried the Child of Prague in the garden… because that’s how you guarantee good weather of course.

One of the most famous characters from my hometown of Strabane was a man called Paddy Gillespie. A true legend if ever there was one.

Paddy was famous for many things: his sporting triumphs, his gift of the gab, his collections and his private museum. But as this film shows, one of the most magical things about him was his gift for invention. You can view the five-minute film here:

Seeing someone ride around on a bike made from an iron bed was the most normal thing in the world. But now I realize it was almost like magic.

Having published my first novel last year, I’m now obsessed with the idea of writing a novel exploring the magic of Ireland, which we Irish think of as so commonplace. I’d love to hear from other Wild Geese members about their experiences of Irish magic realism. 

Image: Courtesy of Chris 531 Flickr

Views: 1055

Tags: Arts, Film, Folklore, Literature, Mythology, Traditions, Tyrone

Comment by Gerry Regan on July 2, 2014 at 11:11am

Caroline, perhaps riding my bike to a friend's in Roscommon and finding myself, after an unintended turn, looking at the ancestral home of Hugo Don O'Connor. 22 years later I learned that my first mother, who had relinquished me for adoption shortly after my birth, carried the O'Connor surname.

Comment by Fran Reddy on July 2, 2014 at 5:13pm

If getting lost and coming across the most unintended magically beautiful and inspirational scenes is considered Irish Magic Realism, then it happened to us.. at least twice in one week! And that feeling you get, the genetic memories, like Ireland is 'home', that things like the trad music are already written in your heart and soul.. that too can be part of the Irish Magic Realism I think : )

Comment by Caroline Doherty de Novoa on July 2, 2014 at 8:03pm

Gerry and Fran, thank you for sharing your experiences. There is definitely something magical about the Irish countryside. There is something special about Ireland that is written in the soul, creating a bond with the wild geese no matter how far they travel from Ireland. I love that phrase "genetic memories." It's very true. 

Comment by Fran Reddy on July 4, 2014 at 12:15pm

I read a fabulous article on genetic memories and will try and find it again to re-post here as it was fascinating!

Comment by Caroline Doherty de Novoa on July 5, 2014 at 12:38pm

Fran, please do post it if you can find it. After your first comment I did a bit of research into genetic memory. I think it's a fascinating topic and one that would provide a brilliant theme for a novel or short story. 

Comment by Jim Curley on July 8, 2014 at 9:12am
Caroline, I think Niall Williams has done just that in his newest novel, History of Rain. I am presently reading the novel, which takes place in Clare, and it is a delight.
Ger, regarding your bike ride: There are no coincidences.
Comment by James McNamara on January 18, 2015 at 3:23pm

After my first trip to the emerald isle in 2000 I began to believe in genetic memory.  What I was told would happen did, even though I vehemently denied the possibility.  The very air is damp with it. Add in the green views and meeting relations pushed me over the edge.  I can say this having a comparison of meeting relations for the first time in the states, it's just not the same.


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