Ok, so I decided to pick this up as I found out Bioy was a friend of Borges (who just happens to be my favourite writer), and, in fact, Borges described this as a ‘masterpiece’ of plotting. How could I resist?
There’s not much I can say about the story that doesn’t lead to spoilers but I’ll try and summarise what I got from it. The plot here is wrought with philosophical problems. I couldn’t help but see the influence of Henri Bergson’s ‘Matter and Memory’ when reading it. If someone were to write a short novel based on those Bergsonian ideas this would be it – the issues raised are all to do with the question of images, perceptions, memory and how these can affect, or indeed create, our perception of time.
It makes a lot of sense that this book was a key inspiration for Last Year In Marienbad (a film we were shown at university during a lecture on Bergson – maybe that explains the connection), so any fans of French New Wave cinema will probably get quite a lot from it.
There are also a lot of questions raised about the relationship of man to technology, in particular cinematic technology, and how these projections can affect our sense of self (or the ‘soul’ that Morel refers to) – ideas that are explored by Bergson, as well as by Deleuze and Stiegler (who is one of my favourite philosophers).
So it’s a book recommended by my favourite author and has conceptual parallels with my favourite philosopher, surely this was my favourite book ever? Unfortunately not. Apart from these philosophical musings, which will probably make me reread this book again at some point in the future, I thought the story was relatively uneventful. The prose were quite stripped down and plain which made for easy, quick, but not particularly enjoyable reading.
Overall I gave this book a solid 3 stars, it definitely made a lasting impression on me, but more for the philosophical aspects of it rather than for the story itself. I don’t think I could agree with Borges (for once!) on this one, but then maybe I’ll change my mind after a second reading, something The Invention of Morel definitely seems to require!