11 December 2007

Bioy Casares' invention

I finished reading La invención de Morel by Adolfo Bioy Casares this weekend (published in English as The Invention of Morel, translated by Ruth L.C. Simms). From the outset, my expectations were high due to Borges' enthusiastic prologue: "He discutido con su autor los pormenores de su trama, la he releído; no me parece una imprecisión o una hipérbole calificarla de perfecta." He places it in the same league as The Turn of the Screw, The Trial, and Julien Green's Le Voyageur sur la Terre (as far as I can tell, this last has not yet been translated into English), and declares it a literary renewal of a concept found in Dante Gabriel Rossetti's "Sudden Light":
I have been here before,
But when or how I cannot tell:
I know the grass beyond the door,
The sweet keen smell,
The sighing sound, the lights around the shore...
The novel is the (footnoted) diary of an escaped prisoner, stranded on an island that is rumored to be infested with a fatal disease that causes the loss of one's hair, nails, and skin. Any discussion of the plot would detract from the experience of encountering it for the first time, but suffice it to say that it involves obsession, immortality, fame, love, the parallel destinies of men and the images they create, and a woman named Faustine (which made me think of Goethe and deals with the devil). The invention itself is something we're on the verge of today--I was stunned when I flipped to the copyright page and discovered that it was first published in 1940 (!).

I look forward to reading it again. It's one of those books that demands a rereading for all of the missed clues from the first time around...

In his acceptance speech for the Premio Cervantes in 1990, Bioy Casares relates that before he finished reading the first chapter of Don Quixote, he knew he wanted to be a writer. Indeed, many literary essays have surely been written on Don Quixote's influence on La invención de Morel: the narrator suffers from a condition very similar to that of the Knight of the Sorrowful Countenance.


Anonymous said...

Hi! It's been ages since I looked up your blog, but I've been thinking about you lately. I read Invention (English translation of course) about two years ago, and really loved it. My motivation for doing so was the Brothers Quay film loosely based on the book, "The Piano Tuner of Earthquakes". I don't know if you've seen their work before, though I imagine you have since it's fairly well known these days. I don't think it's a *fantastic* film or adaptation, but it's quite interesting.


Anonymous said...

PS. I mean to be posting here more often:

amcorrea said...

Good to hear from you! (Sorry about the delay!) Will look up both book and film--sound fascinating. I've added your site to my "friends" blogroll.

Have a lovely week!