Tuesday, March 20, 2012

100 Books #25 - Adolfo Bioy Casares' THE INVENTION OF MOREL




I first became interested in Argentine fantasist Adolfo Bioy Casares last fall at the Toronto International Film Festival, when I had the unique opportunity to see on the big screen a film, Invasión, which he and my all-time hero, Jorge Luis Borges, helped write. It's a dreamy, trippy police procedural fantasy that is also often described as an updating of The Iliad. And it was almost lost; it was only by a supreme international effort in 1999 that it was reassembled and restored, and it was worth every bit of effort those dedicated cinephiles made. You can see it broken up into twelve pieces on YouTube right now (with English subtitles only; when Laroquod and I saw it in Toronto, the subtitles were in French and a volunteer read hasty a English translation into a microphone, which as you might imagine just added to the surreality of the experience) and I strongly suggest that you do!

Casares' experience with and love of film deeply informs this short work, which Borges praised as one with a "perfect plot" and which I found reproduced for me the deep and enjoyable weirdness of watching Invasión or reading W.G. Sebald's Rings of Saturn, one of my favorite books from last year's 100 Books Challenge attempt. Indeed, I think the phrase "Rings of Saturn with a perfect plot" describes this novella, well, perfectly, for in fewer than 100 pages, Casares managed to hit it all -- romance, obsession, the paranoia of a fugitive, the fear of contamination and invasion, isolation, ghosts, jealousy...

I wouldn't dream of spoiling the plot for you, or the language, beautifully rendered by translator Ruth L.C. Simms. But I will say that anyone who loves a good Borgesian fantasy/thought experiment really, really owes it to him or herself to explore Casares' work as well, and make sure that The Invention of Morel makes the "to read" pile soon.

Now, I think I'm going to indulge myself in a re-watch of Invasión over at YouTube.

*Blogger's note: despite its brevity, I am counting this as one of my 100 books, not only because New York Review Classics chose to publish it in its own volume (with a lovely prologue by Borges), but also because I just read at least two full novels that I counted as one in The Wool Omnibus. Golly, have I had some enjoyable reading lately!

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