Ambassador of Books ~ Book Club Madam ~ Blogger Gal

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Invention of Morel

by Adolfo Bioy Casares
90 pages
originally published in 1940
translated from Spanish by Ruth L. C. Simms

*** About the Book ***

In this short story, the main character is a fugitive from Venezuela who has somehow escaped to a tropical island. The island has several buildings on it but no people. After a long time alone on the island, the fugitive suddenly sees people in the buildings! He is terrified that he’ll be captured so he runs off to the forest and hides. From there he observes these new people and he falls in love with a beautiful woman named Faustine. When he finally gets up the nerve to approach her, she doesn’t even acknowledge his existence. Things become steadily more mysterious and the fugitive becomes more and more confused. Finally he decides to sneak in to the building to see if he can figure out what is going on. What he finds out is strange, unexpected, and life-changing …

(This is technically PART of a book, since I read it from a book of collected short stories, all by the same author. )

*** Why I Read It ***

This book counts for the LOST Books Challenge (since it was mentioned in the show) and for the Mind Voyages Challenge (since it won the 1941 First Municipal Prize for Literature of the City of Buenos Aires). Lately I’ve been on a roll with books that count for more than one challenge!

*** My Thoughts ***

This is an odd little story. I could probably have read it in one sitting had I had that much time; instead I read about 15 minutes before bed each night, making the book last about a week. It gave me more time to consider what exactly was going on.

The pace is quick, the writing/translation flows nicely, and the story is intriguing. I really enjoyed reading it, although the entire plot is somewhat disturbing. I can’t say why or I’d be ruining it for you, but suffice it to say that there is definitely some “funny business” going on with Morel!

I do have to point out that the idea of falling in love with someone you’ve only seen from a distance and expecting her to love you back is not only far-fetched but demeaning to the other person in my opinion. That part of the story really bothered me. [I read later that this situation is based on the author’s own appreciation of silent film star Louise Brooks (details can be found here); it does actually make a bit more sense now. Oh, and that's her on the cover of the book.]

On the whole, I did enjoy reading this; it is a story that will stick with me for a long time.

*** Connection to LOST ***

For the fugitive, life on this island is not what it appears to be. The same could be said of the LOST island, that’s for sure. In the story Morel has created his own version of the world just the way he wants it to be (or, at least, mostly the way he wants it to be). Again, the same could be said of LOST; Ben ran Othertown the way he wanted it to go, at least for a while. And neither Morel nor Ben – nor many other characters on LOST – are averse to manipulating people to get what they want with little regard for the feelings of those people.

That’s MY opinion … let’s see what Lostpedia has to say:
[In the episode Eggtown] Sawyer is seen reading this book at the barracks.
Seriously?! That’s all you’ve got?! Even I did better than that …

*** Your Thoughts ***

I can’t imagine that many of you have read this one, but maybe I’m wrong … if you have, what did you think of it? If not, are you intrigued? Also, if a book disturbs you in some way is that a good thing or a bad thing for your enjoyment of the book?


atla said...

I've never read or, or even seen LOST. But I have to admit I like the cover. It's the kind of cover I would have bought the book at a used bookstore for.

softdrink said...

You imagined right...I haven't read it. And I'm one of the few people in the world who don't watched LOST. However, the story does sound intriguing.

Heather J. said...

atla - I love that cover too, though it isn't the one from the version I read.

softdrink - The story WAS really fascinating, although I'm still not sure if I "liked" it or not ...

bermudaonion said...

Your review has piqued my interest. I'm curious about what's disturbing about the plot.

Heather J. said...

bermudaonion - It is a really short story so you should definitely give it a shot - it won't take long to read, then you can let me know if the concept disturbs you as well! :)

Rebecca Reid said...

I can't imagine NOT reading this in one

I enjoyed it. I felt it was more allegory pr fable or something than realistic. Like, the fact that he was obsessed with the woman he couldn't talk to. I don't know, I can't explain the allegory. I'd have to read it more carefully. It just seemed there was something a layer underneath I hadn't quite caught on to! I liked it though.

Aarti said...

Oh, NYRB! I wish you had read this next week for the Spotlight Series!

It does sound like a quirky story, but I think I would enjoy it, actually! I'll have to look into it. I like the title :-)

Alyce said...

I read a review of this story several months ago, and it sounded so interesting that I added it to my wish list. I'm not sure when I'll get around to reading it, but it still has that element of weirdness to it that appeals to me.

Trisha said...

The woman on the cover is absolutely beautiful, and this sounds like a really interesting book.

Amy said...

I really liked it actually, it had staying power for me. Also the way the recoding was on a loop connects to the circular nature of all things LOST.

I read a short story in a YA collection recently that also reminded me of this story. I guess the concept of it just really intrigued me.

Heather J. said...

Rebecca - I definitely don't think it was "realistic" but I'm not sure it was allegorical either - it's definitely something that deserves discussion!

Aarti - Do give it a try, it's worth the time it takes to find a copy. :)

Alyce - You might want to try finding it now even if you aren't ready to read it - unless you are buying a copy, it will probably take a while to find it.

Trisha - The cover IS gorgeous, I agree!

Amy - I reread your review on the LOST Book Blog and I think you caught on to a lot of connections that I didn't notice at first. This really is THE perfect LOST book.

Beth F said...

This is THE perfect LOST book? Yikes. I guess I should add it to my list based on that alone. Sounds intriguing.

Heather J. said...

Beth F - Yes, definitely!

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