A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings is written in a style called Magic Realism. This style uses realistic details alongside magical details. Thus the ordinary is joined with fantasy in way that invites the reader to accept both in trying to make sense of the text. It becomes difficult to distinguish between reality and fantasy in this style since neither is valued more in the story's presentation of events. Bernard McGuirk and Richard Cardwell say, "Magical realism expands the categorizes of the real so as to encompass myth, magic and other extraordinary phenomena in Nature or experience which European realism excluded" (Gabriel García Márquez, eds. Bernard McGuirk and Richard Cardwell, 45).
Gabriel Garcia Marquez has played a seminal role in developing this style, and it is predominantly associated with him. It was originally a style used to describe the writing of Jorge Louis Borges in Argentina. Marquez uses this style in his novels as well as his short stories. Other writers using the style include Gunter Grass in Germany and John Fowles in England. It utilizes the style of a folk or fairy tale, yet unlike these forms it does not provide a definite moral lesson. There is no simple meaning to be culled from the text, and in fact the style resists attempts to map specific meaning onto its events. Magic realism blurs the line between contrasting elements, such as the serious and the trivial, or the horrible and ludicrous. It violates the standard forms of realism and romance.
The style is rather controversial. Many critics have claimed that European writers use the style to appropriate the fiction of the'other.' Others claim that it is merely a passe literary trend or that unimaginative authors continue to use the style to cash in on the Latin American literary 'boom.' Finally, some critics believe that the style limits the talents of the writer, and should not be considered as a serious literary form.
The unique power of Garcia Marquez's writings does much to justify magical-realistic techniques, though Garcia Marquez's essentially unique artistry also serves to demonstrate that magical realism alone does not make a writer great. Garcia Marquez's imagination, human insight and literary skill, more than his genre, provide the best explanation for his art and popularity.