Wednesday, February 01, 2017

Adolfo Bioy Casares, The Invention of Morel (1940)

See?  Something shorter.  BAM.  This little book had been on my radar for a long time—a piece of fantastic fiction by an Argentine writer who was also a friend and collaborator with Borges, who provides an introduction here, in which he provides what would probably be the best pull-quote in the history of publishing:

To classify it as perfect is neither an imprecision nor a hyperbole.
--Jorges Luis Borges

I mean, damn.

It really is very good.  It’s written in the form of a diary by a fugitive who finds himself on a strange island: it’s deserted, but there’s a hotel, a swimming pool, and a museum.  There’s also a group of tourists living it up.  The narrator tries to avoid them, and sometimes to interact with them, but it’s pretty quickly apparent that they can’t see or otherwise perceive him.  Among them is a woman named Faustina on whom he conceives a crush, as well as, yes, a man named Morel (and I’m embarrassed that the introduction had to point out to me that this is an obvious allusion to Dr. Moreau).

There’s really little else you can say without spoiling things—and while I don’t think knowing its secrets would ruin it exactly, I’m still loath to say anything else about it, because I think it deserves to be experienced more or less cold.  It’s possible that the fantastic elements will be somewhat less shocking than they would’ve been at the time of its publication, but it remains mysterious, frightening, and profound in turn; and given how short it is, there’s no reason not to experience it for yourself.  It’s Casares’ most well-known work, but he had a long career, and I’m kinda keen on reading more of his material.


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