The Invention of Morel by Bioy Casares

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The invention of Morel (1940) is one of the books authored by Argentine writer Adolfo Bioy Casares. This book is considered the most successful of his works since it won him the City of Bueno Aires's First Municipal Prize for Literature in 1941. The book tells the story of exploration, includes romance and suspense that makes each detail deeply mysterious. The book can be likened to a perfect science fiction piece that explores the psychological aspects of life including the imagination of love that turns real. Bioy Casares's line of creativity can also be equated to Edgar Allan Poe's gothic qualities in literature. Apart from that,  the author explores the problem of reality and sensorial experience by showing how the narrator suffers psychologically to the extent of questioning his sanity.

            The story is about an escapee who hides in a deserted island in Polynesia. While in the desert, some tourists arrive and the fugitive does not want them to know he inhabits the place. He experiences mixed emotions as he falls in love with one of the tourists but does not want to be discovered. His desire to inform the female that he loves her is kept at bay by an anomalous phenomenon.

            Meanwhile, the fugitive starts a diary and retreats to a swamp leaving the tourists to occupy the museum located on top of the hill where he used to live. The escapee writes in the diary that he is from Venezuela and he was sentenced to life in prison. The fugitive is not sure of where he is but guesses that he could be on the fictional island of Villings. Apart from that, the fugitive indicates that there is a strange disease in the island with similar symptoms to radiation poisoning.

            The lady that the fugitive falls in love with is Faustine, and she is often in the company of another man called Morel. The two speak French, but the other tourists on the island do not respond to Morel whenever he talks to them. The fugitive fears that he could be going insane because he hears repeated conversations between Faustine and Morel. The fugitive continues to have strange experiences as he notices that the tourists appear and disappear as well as seeing things doubling in the island. To comprehend what is going on, the fugitive develops many theories and realizes that Morel has been recording the tourist's actions in a machine that reproduces reality. Finally, the escapee learns how to operate Morel's device and decides to wait for his soul to pass onto the device.

            Bioy Casares perfectly tackles the themes of metaphysics, love, greed and memory through his characterization as well as the location of the story. On memory, the author creates a narrator who is not sure of what he sees while at the same time provides a diary for the reader and the narrator prepares that diary. The author cleverly supports his idea of memory as subjective by making the narrator say that he did not intend to destroy the images and instead sought to save them by writing in the diary. However, as the criminal records later, his memory was sometimes erroneous and subjective (Bioy Casares 80-85). Bioy Casares' making of the fugitive and the diary efficiently shows the readers the importance of memory. Almost all readers can identify with this idea of memory and more so those who have experienced mental illness or cared for individuals with psychological problems. 

            The author also rightly interconnects the themes to make them present a logical flow of the main idea. By focusing on the soul and the psychological aspects of human life, Bioy Casares includes the theme of love as a privileged perception of the unreality of the world. The author makes the fugitive only admire Faustine but unable to tell her about his feelings while at the same time brings in Morel to use his invention to try and get ahead of the fugitive in wooing Faustine. Throughout the story, Bioy Casares interestingly points out at the shadowy aspect of love which many readers are likely to have experienced.

            The novella also presents the theme of greed in an appropriate manner that links it to the other ideas of the story. Morel's invention which also makes up the title of Bioy Casares' story is influenced by the creator's desire to have all that he wants at the expense of others. By making Morel put the lives of the tourists at risk, the author succeeds in exposing the predictability of human intellectual, scientific and erotic pretension. Although written more than seven decades ago, Bioy Casares' approach to human selfishness is still relevant today. The ideas from this book can be observed in a broader sense and linked to the many ongoing scientific research financed by states to better their lives without the consideration of its effects on the less powerful nations.

            It is almost palpable that a reader would love the way Bioy Casares deals with realism in presenting museum by Morel and the diary by the fugitive which both serve to show how attempts to construct the real life can never replace the real. The author demonstrates that even journals do not record specific events and individuals can opt to exaggerate issues in their favor. At the same time, Bioy Casares uses Morel's invention to demonstrate that archiving lived experiences undermine the real. The author, therefore, drives his point home that human efforts to historicize and manipulate the real only moves them to the super real. The same thing that happens with photographs when color and definition are manipulated to present an over real situation or object.

            Trying to identify flaws in Bioy Casares' novella proves to be a difficult task. The book is written interestingly with a plot that is easy to follow. Furthermore, the themes are also appropriately built through characterization and scene setting. What might appear as a weakness in Bioy Casares' writing is his failure to include more than one location and the fact that a first-time reader may not quickly understand the events of the first part of the narrative. The narrator's confusion about his status (dead or alive) also confuses the reader in the first part of the novella. Nevertheless, the book is a well-crafted exploration of science fiction and fantasy that challenges the reader's understanding of the relationship between reality and sensorial experience. Moreover, the interconnectedness of the themes provides a smooth flow especially past the first part of the book. The book also presents ideas that many readers can quickly identify with.

Works Cited

Bioy Casares, Adolfo. The Invention Of Morel. 1st ed., NYRB Classics, 2003, pp. 1-130.

November 24, 2023



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