Bioy Casares, Adolfo (Vol. 8)
Bioy Casares, Adolfo 1914–
Bioy Casares is an Argentinian novelist, short story writer, essayist, and screenwriter. He is an inventive, imaginative writer whose name is frequently linked with Jorge Luis Borges. The two have, in fact, collaborated on film scripts, and like his fellow Argentinian, Bioy Casares is preoccupied with labyrinths and metaphysical puzzles. He has also published under the pseudonyms Martin Sacastru and Javier Miranda, and has collaborated with Borges under the joint pseudonyms H(onorio) Bustos Domecq and B. Suarez Lynch. (See also CLC, Vol. 4, and Contemporary Authors, Vols. 29-32, rev. ed.)
Borges greatly influenced Adolfo Bioy Casares … and collaborated with him on a number of books, including the well-known Antologia de la literatura fantástica (1940), a landmark in Spanish American magic realism, to which [Bioy Casares' wife] Silvina Ocampo also contributed…. In his collaborations with Borges [Bioy Casares] employs footnotes to create the impression of a pseudo essay and to lend credence to the fantastic events they narrate. Like Borges he uses dreams, doubles, and time reversal. (pp. 221-22)
Bioy's themes include not only magic and temporal fusion but also man-woman relationships, quite often narrated in ironical and satirical fashion. His most famous novel, in whose prologue Borges rejects Ortega's lament about the impossibility of new fictional themes, is La invención de Morel (1940), about a scientific machine that projects reproduced reality on space and time, including touch, smell, and sound to give an illusion of everlasting life to the creations of the lonely scientist. (p. 222)
Kessel Schwartz, in his A New History of Spanish American Fiction, Volume II (copyright © 1971 by University of Miami Press), University of Miami Press, 1971.
In contemporary Latin American fiction the characters always fail even to communicate with one another. Thus in the novels of Bioy Casares each character is presented as a wholly separate island. Sheer conversation between one character and another is like an adventure across a stormy channel, a risky crossing between islands. Standing on one's own island, one can moreover only perceive a fragment of the other island's coastline. Who knows, maybe it is concealing an entire continent? The other is ultimately an inscrutable mystery.
Bioy Casares extracts a great deal of fun out of his characters' failure to communicate. His novels and short stories are fundamentally comic, the comedy being based on the vast gap that separates what a character imagines his interlocutor to be from the fact of what he really is. Thus in stories like 'El don supremo' and 'Confidencias de un lobo' the heroes are convinced they have achieved a spectacular success with the girls they respectively encounter only to discover that their motives were notoriously less flattering than they imagined them to be. Even more hair-raising is the dilemma of the narrator of La invención de Morel (1940), who falls in love with a woman without suspecting that she is living on a different plane of reality from him altogether: she turns out to be a sort of holographic image, a three-dimensional, living photograph of her now long-deceased original self. (p. 91)
D. P. Gallagher, in his Modern Latin American Literature (copyright © 1973 by Oxford University Press; reprinted by permission), Oxford University Press, 1973.
Since Bustos Domecq does not exist, Argentine Authors Jorge Luis Borges and Adolfo Bioy-Casares had to invent him [for their Chronicles of Bustos Domecq]. Why? Because Domecq is the pure incarnation of the middleman between a world gone culturally haywire and the uncomprehending mass of mankind. His function: telling people why they should admire nonsense. This inept critic is a figure of Chaplinesque pathos: a tastemaker totally lacking in taste, a perpetual target of the avant-garde's custard pies.
As this collection of mock essays about mock artists amply demonstrates, no aesthetic theory is too lunatic for Domecq to explain and applaud….
Borges' gnomic stories have, of course, earned him a worldwide following, and he and Bioy-Casares (a longtime friend and disciple) are up to something a bit more ambitious than a parody of a hapless critic. The real target of their often uproarious gibes is modernism—or the part of it that zealously pursues theories of "pure" form into Cloud-Cuckoo-Land. The result, which Domecq never perceives, is invariably monstrous: novels and poems that cannot be read, art that cannot be seen, architecture—freed from the "demands of inhabitability"—that cannot be used.
Paul Gray, "Bloodless Coup," in Time (reprinted by permission from Time, The Weekly Newsmagazine; copyright Time Inc. 1976), March 29, 1976, p. 74.