Biography

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 730

The novelist and short-story writer Adolfo Bioy Casares (bee-YOY kah-SAH-rays), who became known in the United States primarily as a longtime friend and collaborator of Jorge Luis Borges, has been credited with introducing the science-fiction genre into the Argentine literary landscape. Bioy Casares was the son of Adolfo Bioy, a wealthy landowner, and his wife, Marta Casares. He spent his infancy both in the city and on the family ranch in the province of Buenos Aires. As an imaginative young boy, Bioy Casares found the night sky, pictures of the dead, and mirrors to be gateways to a marvelous reality. He also nurtured the terrifying yet compelling world of the fantastic through his readings. During his high school years he was particularly attracted to mathematics, but his love of writing was stronger.{$S[A]Lynch, B. Suárez;Bioy Casares, Adolfo}{$S[A]Davis, B. Lynch (joint);Bioy Casares, Adolfo}{$S[A]Domecq, H. Bustos (joint);Bioy Casares, Adolfo}{$S[A]Miranda, Javier;Bioy Casares, Adolfo}{$S[A]Sacastra, Martin;Bioy Casares, Adolfo}

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Bioy Casares’s first literary work, completed in 1928, was a fantastic thriller titled Vanidad: O, Una aventura terrorifica (vanity, or a terrifying adventure). At that time, he was discovering nineteenth century Spanish literature, the Bible, Dante, James Joyce, and the Argentine classics. Comic strips and popular novelettes, however, also appealed to him. Like most upper-class Argentinians, he studied at the University of Argentina, first in the law school, then in the faculty of philosophy and letters, but he never completed his university studies and returned instead to manage his father’s ranch.

In 1932, Bioy Casares met Borges, and a close personal friendship and lifelong collaborative effort began. Together they created the literary personality they jokingly called “Biorges,” the figure who represented some of their collaborative works they published under the pseudonyms Honorio Bustos Domecq, B. Suárez Lynch, and B. Lynch Davis. Bioy Casares began to read under Borges’s guidance, and aside from the literary influence of Borges himself, such writers as Franz Kafka, Robert Louis Stevenson, Joseph Conrad, Marcel Proust, and Henry James left a lasting impression on him. In 1933, he published a collection of short stories, Diecisiete disparos contra lo porvenir (seventeen shots at the future), under a pseudonym. This work was followed in 1935 by La nueva tormenta (the new storm), which was illustrated by the artist and writer Silvina Ocampo, whom he married in 1940.

Bioy Casares has consistently renounced his early writing, maintaining that his literary career began in 1940. In that year, he published what became one of the most widely read literary classics in Argentine history, the work that is largely responsible for his fame: The Invention of Morel. The novel, awarded the Argentinian Municipal Prize in 1941, contains a surrealistic atmosphere that, as critics maintain, bears much resemblance to H. G. Wells’s The Island of Dr. Moreau (1896). While the novel contains overtones of the gothic, it uses the vehicle of fantasy rather than the supernatural. Within the context of contemporary Argentine literature, The Invention of Morel launched Argentine science fiction, a genre in which that country has excelled since.

After publishing several volumes of short stories, Bioy Casares returned to the novel in 1969 with a best-seller, Diary of the War of the Pig. The novel, radically different from his earlier works, focuses on Argentine reality and the destiny of humankind. It is a somber work that portrays a world in which a human being has no right to grow old, yet the work also contains the elements of hope and love. This novel was followed in 1973 by Asleep in the Sun, for which Bioy Casares won the much-coveted Argentinian Society of Writers’ Prize. In this novel, the author returned again to the fantastic genre, the gothic, and the pseudoscientific (phrenology). Compared with the bleak irony of Diary of the War of the Pig, this novel is one of light humor and displays great imagination in its hallucinatory fantasies.

Although some critics maintain that Bioy Casares’s plots are overly ambiguous and complex, others consider his strength to lie in his complex humor. Adolfo Bioy Casares died in 1999. He will probably best be remembered for his works of the 1940’s and 1950’s, works that experiment with narrative voice and discourse and innovatively blend science fiction and fantasy. In these works, the author clearly foreshadowed the Latin American “new narrative” of the 1970’s.

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