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The Invention of Morel (New York Review Books Classics) Paperback – August 31, 2003

4.1 out of 5 stars 37 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"The masterpiece among Bioy Casares' short, intense novels is The Invention of Morel, a book that won raves from Borges (who placed it alongside Franz Kafka's The Trial), was called "perfect" by Octavio Paz, and inspired one of French cinema's most infamous moviesf, Last Year at Marienbad (1961). Though it was published in 1940, the book's continuing relevance was recently proven when it was featured on Lost — a cameo many viewers perceive as a key to that TV show's plot. But that doesn't mean this is a tough tract unfit for quality beach time... Just know that Morel is a poetic evocation of the experience of love, an inquiry into how we know one another, and a still-relevant examination of how technology has changed our relationship with reality. It's also a great read — one you'll be pressing into the hands of your fellow beach-goers." --Boldtype

About the Author

Jorge Luis Borges(1899-1986), Argentine writer, poet and philosopher, is best known for his books"Ficciones"and"The Aleph."

Having translated Manuel Puig, Julio Cortazar, Adolfo Bioy Casares, Guillermo Cabrera Infante, and other notable authors, Suzanne Jill Levine is one of the most highly regarded translators of contemporary Latin American literature. She is a professor of Spanish and Portuguese at the University of California at Santa Barbara, and the author of The Subversive Scribe: Translating Latin American Fiction.

Jorge Luis Borges(1899-1986), Argentine writer, poet and philosopher, is best known for his books"Ficciones"and"The Aleph."

Jorge Luis Borges(1899-1986), Argentine writer, poet and philosopher, is best known for his books"Ficciones"and"The Aleph."
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Product Details

  • Series: New York Review Books Classics
  • Paperback: 103 pages
  • Publisher: NYRB Classics (August 31, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9781590170571
  • ISBN-13: 978-1590170571
  • ASIN: 1590170571
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.3 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (37 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #33,700 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
I picked up this book because of the rather extravagant praise from Borges and Paz. Apparently it was inspired by the silent film star Louise Brooks, which makes sense: the entire book is about our capacity to love phantoms. All of us probably remember early infatuations with celebrities who never existed for us as anything but reproductions: on paper, televisions, the movie screen.
Essentially, this book imagines what happens when the reproductions become faithful enough to be indistinguishable from the real thing. It is narrated by a man hiding from the police on a deserted island for an undisclosed crime. One day people appear, and the man quickly falls in love with one of the women; strangely enough, they often disappear for short stretches of time, and seem to repeat the same conversations and actions again and again.
All of this is well-written, but when the explanation is given, all that preceded seems to have been time spent waiting for the a-ha twist: it's only after this point that the book becomes really interesting. I won't give away the story, because the plot is worth getting through yourself: let me mention something that it reminded me of, though.
When Apocalypse Now: Redux came out, they restored scenes of Martin Sheen's brief love affair with a French woman on the river, a storyline completely left out of the original cut. The actress, now an old woman, went to the theatres and saw herself young and beautiful again. And something about her youth is now eternal, or at least as eternal as film proves to be.
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Format: Paperback
A character who could be straight out of Borges's "Universal History of Iniquities" takes refuge from the law on a deserted tropical island where he witnesses some pretty strange stuff (I'm trying to be vague here). What seems to begin as the story of a man's slow descent into paranoia turns into what seems like a ghost story before eventually becoming something entirely different - something that could have sprung from the mind of Gene Wolfe or Philip K. Dick on a good day.
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Format: Paperback
The cover picture and the blurb on the back indicate that Louise Brooks had something to do with it all....And so, knowing this, I brought what I knew of LB to my reading of 'The Invention of Morel'. As a result, I don't find fault with the character development (as other reviews here do) - why should I? This tale is about the elusive nature of beauty, the mystery of cinema, the hard to pin down quality of a great silent movie actress. To imagine what the narrator experiences - the coming to life of someone who's charisma and beauty resembles that of Louise Brooks - against the backdrop of a strange island, the eerie repetitious jazz music on the phonograph, the at once lush and deadened landscape - is descriptive enough. The narrator never knows the characters - Half-crazed, he doesn't even know himself! This is an absolutely brilliant, highly atmospheric tale.
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What makes you decide to read a book? It does not matter that the book was inspired by Louise Brooks but that could be intriguing enough for a start. It is encouraging when someone like Borges- the fantasist - recommends it. Comparisons to Philip K.Dick or Chesterton are handy, perhaps, as a hint. You may wonder how all of these very different references fit in this slim book. But finally, when you do read it, all those references have to fall away (but perhaps not too far away) and the book must stand on its own. Bioy Casares has created a surprising little marvel.

Our hero is escaping the police for an unnamed capital crime, and finds himself on an island (a map is provided) decorated with three pristine buildings on the hill, but otherwise a barely hospitable place of vicious high tides, mosquitoes, swamps, reeds and misery. As you work through this environment, Borges does come to mind, as it seems fantastic, with the imagery that seems a signature of South America genius. You'll find yourself trying to determine whether what he describes is real or his own imaginings. After exploring every cranny of the buildings --and the descriptions remind me of art deco drawings, clean, clear, balanced but at the same time ornate-- he finds one day that the island is suddenly inhabited. Not wanting to be discovered, he skulks around the visitors, drawn especially to the pensive and lovely Faustine and the book slips from Borges to a period mystery, a la Chesterton. His understanding of the situation increases and it becomes more like a science fiction invention (the reference to Philip K Dick)... but still there is more, and when you realize there IS more, it becomes Casares' own novel, and stands on its own.
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Format: Paperback
There is a strange, lingering loneliness to this novel that is really intriguing. I kept thinking about how it is sometimes when you walk into a room full of people who all know each other and are having a conversation that you know nothing about - how you feel out of slip from everyone, detached and a little crazed to get caught up with your surroundings.

The images in the novel are even more extraordinary: people in 1920's formal dress dancing on the grassy hillside in the summer evening to the music of a distant phonograph, two suns rising and setting overhead each day, the erratic tides, strange machines in the basement.

But more than anything is the narrator's desire to be with the mysterious Faustine. His solution at the end of the story is perfect and also sadly touching. I kept thinking about those lonely people you see on the internet who badly photoshop themselves into pictures of more interesting situations or with people they've never actually met.

Overall the novel deals with the nostalgia for a time that never really existed but which our memories have tricked us into believing are real. You could say that the process our narrator goes through is a literal interpretation of what our own brain does when, given enough time, it alters our memory of past events and paints a more pleasing image. If you could study the phenomena of lost memory under the microscope you might see one scene slowly dissolve away into nothingness and you might even be a little frightened by the whole process, too.

This one will stay with me for awhile (I hope).
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