Bioy Casares, Adolfo

Tagged: Author | Editor

(1914-1999) Argentine author, married 1940-1993 to the author and anthologist Silvina Ocampo (1903-1993); he was noted from his first book, Prólogo ["Prologue"] (coll 1929), for the surreal displacements of his work, which uses sf or detective forms in an abstract, parodic fashion (see Parody), and is generally metaphysical in intent. La invención de Morel (1940; trans Ruth I C Simms in The Invention of Morel and Other Stories from "La trama celeste" coll 1964), tells in this fashion of its unnamed protagonist's immurement on an Island whose inhabitants seem themselves immured in an eternal resort, and for whom he is invisible (see Invisibility); The Invention of Morel was the unacknowledged inspiration for Alain Resnais's film Last Year at Marienbad (1961). The protagonist soon discovers that the inhabitants are three-dimensional projections or Avatars (see also Virtual Reality) created and operated by a mysterious Machine which resembles a surreal film projector (see Cinema); in this pantomime of a futuristic entre-deux-guerres, he continues to search for Immortality, a search mediated (and vitiated) by the Godgame manipulations of his host, Morel, who may in fact be the protagonist himself, imprisoned on the island because his Invention kills its human models in order to create chimerical copies (see Crime and Punishment); the tale was directly filmed in Italy as L'Invenzione di Morel (1974) directed by Emidio Greco Simms's translation also includes several tales of the fantastic from La trama celeste ["The Celestial Plot"] (coll 1948), which includes "El perjurio de la nieve" (1944 Sur; trans Ruth I C Simms as The Perjury of the Snow 1964 chap). The story was filmed by Leopoldo Torre Nilsson as El Crimen de Oribe (1950), and features a house whose occupants are caught in a Time Loop. Plan de evasión (1945; trans Suzanne Jill Levine as A Plan for Escape 1975) had close thematic links with the earlier novel, exposing a similar protagonist to the dislocations of a metaphysical Island. Bioy Casares's most substantial novel, El sueño del los héroes (1954; trans Diana Thorold as The Dream of the Heroes 1987), features the saving of a workman from death by a mysterious figure, possibly supernatural, and the repetition of the same events years later, but without any intervention; it was avowedly influenced by the Time theories of J W Dunne. Dormir al sol (1973; trans Suzanne Jill Levine as Asleep in the Sun 1978), which has soul-transplants, conflates the transformations of psychosurgery with totalitarianism.

The latest two short novels by Bioy Casares are sf. Un campeón desparejo ["An Uneven Champion"] (1993) recounts with humour and a certain melancholy the fate of a taxi driver who, thanks to a special brew, acquires superhuman strength (see Superpowers). In De un mundo a otro ["From One World to Another"] (1998), two Argentines are traveling in a Spaceship that has an accident, and they are marooned on a unique planet. In both texts, the character traction derives from love lost. Bioy Casares, in addition to winning the Cervantes Award, received in 1991 the Argentine sf award, the Más Allá [Beyond], for lifetime achievement.

Bioy Casares met Jorge Luis Borges in 1932. They became close literary friends, and under the shared pseudonym H Bustos Domecq published Seis problemas para Don Isidro Parodi (coll 1942; trans Norman Thomas di Giovanni as Six Problems for Don Isidro Parodi coll 1981), the first of a series of introvertive detections; Borges's 1940 introduction to The Invention of Morel itself became famous as a proclamation of freedom from traditional realism in the novel, in contrast to the "reasoned imagination" that engines Morel. Both authors, with Silvina Ocampo, wrote an untranslated detective novel with no fantastic element, and collaborated in the editing of a notable collection of Fantastika, Antología de la Literatura Fantástica (anth 1940; exp 1965; trans as The Book of Fantasy 1988). If Bioy Casares has for some years lived in the shadow of his famous friend, the continuing translation of his work may rectify what Borges consistently deemed a misprision. [JC/LPe]

Adolfo Bioy Casares

born Buenos Aires, Argentina: 15 September 1914

died Buenos Aires, Argentina: 8 March 1999

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