Fantastic Psychology and Mechanical Allegory in the Invention of Morel. By Extrapolation

Fantastic Psychology and Mechanical Allegory in the Invention of Morel.

By Extrapolation

  • Release Date: 2009-09-22
  • Genre: Language Arts & Disciplines

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The publication of La Invencion de Morel [The Invention of Morel] by Adolfo Bioy Casares in 1940 was a significant event in the aesthetic debates of the day in Argentina, a shot in the struggle over how the proper goals of literature there were to be defined. In his history of Sur, the important Argentine literary and cultural magazine that first published portions of Bioy's short novel, John King describes the tenor of the times. Since at least the 1920s, two distinct groups of writers had coalesced around Boedo, a working class district in Buenos Aires, and Florida, a fashionable downtown street in the same city. These groups broadly represented two important currents in the contemporary literary scene, with different aesthetic and political goals. The Boedo group, most famously represented by writers like Roberto Arlt, sought "to define a new 'realist' socialist consciousness" and was generally associated with more engaged and socially conscious forms of writing. Borges and Bioy, by contrast, formed part of the Florida group, which was more interested in a broadly experimental and avant-garde aesthetic of writing, a perspective that led both authors to a particular interest in the fantastic (King 20). Bioy's novel, for which Borges provided a well-known prologue, was a good example of their shared aesthetic predilections. However the differences between Boedo and Florida were not merely literary, and it would be difficult to disentangle the aesthetic debate between these two groups from important political questions of the day. Along with a general interest in working class issues, writers in the Boedo group were often associated with openly nationalist ideas and causes. Borges and Bioy's own aesthetic preferences, by contrast, tended to favor a more internationalist outlook and an explicitly anti-nationalist politics that would lead some critics to dismiss their work as elitist foreign imports with little to say about life in Argentina (King 44-48). Some variations on the form of this debate have arguably influenced the critical literature on the work of these authors down to the present. Although fantastic fiction has long been popular in Argentina, it has always had its share of detractors, particularly among those writers and critics who privileged more "engaged" forms of art. Critics advocating more realistic or "committed" forms of literature have sometimes attacked the genre as an irresponsible form of escapism, a useless or even pernicious distraction while there were uphill social, economic, and political battles left to fight. Borges's own problematic reputation as Argentina's most internationally admired author and one of the most reviled in his own country, exemplifies the broader difficulties these kinds of critics have had with the place of the fantastic in Latin America. Nonetheless, the idea of committed or explicitly socially engaged literature was particularly anathema to Borges, who considered such "extraliterary" concerns as usually detrimental to more purely aesthetic concerns. (1)