cross posted from The Dream Antilles
Wonderful Writers You Might Not Have Heard Of (WWYMNHHO) is an occasional, erratic, idiosyncratic series. It’s like an island that floods at high tide and migrates in the turquoise sea. Sometimes it appears. But I digress.
Adlofo Bioys Casares’ 1940 novel The Invention of Morel is a short gem. Jorge Luis Borges, Bioys’ mentor, wrote in the prologue, “To classify it (the novel) as perfect is neither an imprecision nor a hyperbole.” And Mexican Nobel Prize winner Octavio Paz wrote, “The Invention of Morel may be described, without exaggeration, as a perfect novel.” Given this kind of praise, it seemed imperative to read it.
I have no intention of spoiling this book by revealing the plot. I will tell you this much: Morel is a person and not a mushroom, and the invention is his, it is not that he is invented. This is the kind of thing that happens when better translators than I render La Invencion de Morel as something other than Morel’s Invention.
The narrator has escaped from a crime to an island with peculiar tides. He hides. Sometimes there are two suns; sometimes, two moons. Events appear to repeat on the island; perhaps there is some fatal disease there. At some point, Faustine appears and without ever talking with her, watching her carefully from a distance, he falls in love with her. It is a love of the idea of a person, a love for an image of a person, a love of a phantom. It’s not quite real, but it’s very deeply felt. And Bioys manages to convey this mystification, if it’s fair to call it that, beautifully.
There is more, much more to this. But it’s just not fair to give it all away. If you’re going to read the book, try to avoid the Wiki on the book and the one on Bioys (though I’ve linked to them).
The book is only 103 pages long. You could gobble it up in an afternoon or evening, or you could read it in small bits over a week, as I did. There is enough going on to ponder that a slow reading can be especially enjoyable.
Adolfo Bioy Casares was born in Buenos Aires, the grandson of a wealthy landowner and dairy processor. His parents were keen alphabet enthusiasts, which explains their choice of his initials “ABC”. He wrote his first story (“Iris y Margarita”) at the age of 11. He was a friend and frequent collaborator of Jorge Luis Borges and wrote many stories with him under the pseudonym of H. Bustos Domecq. He won the Gran Premio de Honor of SADE (the Argentine Society of Writers, 1975), the French Légion d’honneur (1981), the title of Illustrious Citizen of Buenos Aires (1986), and the Premio Miguel de Cervantes.