‘The Invention of Morel’ by Adolfo Bioy Casares – A Machine that Can Copy a Person or Group of Persons


‘The Invention of Morel’ by Adolfo Bioy Casares    (1941) – 103 pages            Translated from the Spanish by Ruth L. C. Simms


What is this strange invention by the scientist named Morel? It is a device that captures not only sight like a camera and sound like a microphone, but also all of the other senses – touch, smell, and taste to name just three of the other senses. In other words, Morel’s device can capture and re-create the entirety of a person or a group of persons.

A remote tropical island, a desperate fugitive from the police, a group of vacationers dancing and singing to the music of ‘Valencia’ and ‘Tea for Two’, a beautiful woman Faustine, a love story, two suns, the mad scientist Morel and his fantastic new invention. These are some of the elements in the novella ‘The Invention of Morel’.

However Morel is not the hero of our novel, No, our hero is a fugitive from the authorities who escapes to an uninhabited island. Thus he has the entire island to himself. But eventually a boat arrives and a group of tourists takes over the main building on the island, a museum.

They moved the phonograph out of the green room next to the aquarium, and they are, men and women together, sitting on benches or sprawling on the ground, chatting, listening to music, or dancing, in the midst of a torrential downpour that threatens to uproot all of the trees!”

Our hero retreats to the swamps on the southern part of the island. However he spies on the tourists and spots one woman, Faustine, whom he quickly falls in love with. He approaches her, but she does not notice him. Later our hero overhears the leader of the tourists Morel discuss his machine which will allow Morel to spend eternity with the woman that he loves, who our hero assumes to be Faustine.

The group of tourists do not react in any way to our fugitive. They do not recognize his presence.

The people who live here are dreadful snobs – or else they are the inmates of an abandoned insane asylum!”

Possibilities: Insane asylum. Heaven or purgatory. Is he invisible due to improper diet and polluted air? Are the intruders from a different planet? Does he have a disease that causes him to imagine the intruders? Was he dead?

The story behind this novella is that the Argentine author Adolfo Bioy Casares became infatuated with the famous silent screen actress Louise Brooks just be watching her movies and was inspired by her image to write this novel. The character Faustine is based on Louise Brooks. Hence the picture of Louise Brooks on the cover. The novella is illustrated with drawings throughout which adds to its enjoyment.

The life in a projection becomes more real for our fugitive than the life he is actually living.

So we have here a desert island fantasy, a science fiction, and a love story all rolled into one short novella.


Grade:    B+



2 responses to this post.

  1. Hi Tony — enjoyed the review! This is one that I’ve actually read (about two years ago) but never got around to reviewing. It really is remarkably ahead of its time, with its questioning of the nature of time and reality. I’ve always meant to re-read it, as well as
    something by his wife, Silvina Ocampo (think that NYRB may have published some of her stories).

    Liked by 1 person


    • Hi Janakay,
      I have seen the name Silvina Ocampo in connection with South American literature, but have not read her. Also I did not know she was married to Adolfo Bioy Casares. This year has started out for me as very much a South American reading year for me having already read four from there, two of which I haven’t reviewed yet.

      Liked by 1 person


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