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November 25, 2013

BOOK NOOK: Casares 'The Invention of Morel' a precursor for other tales

Tonawanda News — In 1940, Adolfo Bioy Casares bucked the trends of his time with his highly influential work, “The Invention of Morel.” 

Until then, the mainstream literary audience had become infatuated with pushing literature past the constraints of structure and plot. Groundbreaking work in fiction was being published feverishly through the 1920s and ‘30s, including classics like Virginia Woolf’s “Mrs. Dalloway,” Jame’s Joyce’s “Ulysses” and William Faulkner’s “The Sound and the Fury.”

Critics and scholars increasingly focused on such avant garde styles of writing, especially the stream of consciousness technique, in which the author freely allows the thoughts and reactions of the narrator to spill onto the page, simulating a continuous flow of ideas.

The traditional, plot-based form of storytelling was all but dead by 1940, save the pulps, a magazine-like publishing format most “sophisticated” readers found to hold less value than the paper it was printed on. 

That is, until Casares published “The Invention of Morel.”

Perhaps citing “The Invention of Morel” as the buoy that saved traditional plot-based storytelling may sound extreme, but its importance is tough to over-emphasize. Casares’ peer and lifelong friend, famed author Jorge Luis Borges, declared “The Invention of Morel” a masterpiece of plotting, and The New York Times called it “a masterfully paced and intellectually daring plot.” Just like that, Casares had breathed life back into the use of an engaging plot as the foundation for a piece of fiction.

“The Invention of Morel” is told from the point of view of a fugitive, who after a long and grueling escape across the ocean finds solace on a deserted island. The fugitive begins to keep a diary when a group of tourists appear on the island, detailing his attempts to remain hidden in fear of being returned to the authorities. It is through his diary that the reader learns of what happens on the island.

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