Academic journal article Journal of the Fantastic in the Arts

The Mistress of Sp[l]ices: Technovirtual Liaisons in Adolfo Bioy Casares's the Invention of Morel

Academic journal article Journal of the Fantastic in the Arts

The Mistress of Sp[l]ices: Technovirtual Liaisons in Adolfo Bioy Casares's the Invention of Morel

Article excerpt

What we see in the photographic image is not simply a copy of a referent but an emanation of the past that pursues its career independently of its original, making the photographic or filmic image something uncanny.

--Nicholas Daly

He who controls the sp[l]ice, controls the universe! --Baron Vladimir Harkonnen (my splice) (Lynch)

AS GEORGES MELIES DISCOVERED TO HIS ASTONISHED GLEE IN THE LATE nineteenth century, moving pictures do more than just record reality--they create one. Through stop-trick substitutions, multiple exposures, time lapses, and splices, celluloid becomes a portal translucent not only to the projector's bulb, but to the projections of the fantastic. For Argentine writer Adolfo Bioy Casares (1914-1999), such cinematic sleight-of-hand becomes so compelling that it promises to substitute the special effect for reality itself. In his fascinating 1940 novel The Invention of Morel, Bioy Casares literalizes the notion that "film is forever" by making cinematic recordings actually immortalize those captured on camera. He likewise makes appearances into potent realities. Two dissociated worlds, although temporally estranged, are spatially spliced together through layered projections--creating the illusion of two lovers immortalized in a virtual union, played back without end. (1) This Borgesian splicing of virtual and actual demonstrates the fantastical possibilities--and tremendous manipulative power--of the splice and the image overlay.

In the story, a fugitive seeks refuge on a deserted island that he eventually discovers is haunted by fleshly phantasms that play out fragments from their lives over and over again. These life segments were in fact recorded by Dr. Morel during a week on the island and now play back, endlessly projected in a technologically-mediated Nietzschean eternal recurrence. When the protagonist falls in love with one of these phantoms, he gets no response from her. Driven to desperation, his solution is to record and splice himself into her virtual world--killing himself in the process--so that if anyone were to observe the scene as it played, it would appear that the two actually interact, though she remains only aware (if aware at all) of the forever unaltered "script" as she initially played it out. Bioy Casares's work of Latin American speculative fiction raises striking questions about our ability to embrace fantastical projections and attempt to achieve satisfaction from virtual liaisons with simulations that can never reciprocate the viewer's desire.

Solitude, Desire, and Textual Relations on the Island of Doctor Morel

Only the poet, disdaining to be tied to any such subjection [to nature], lifted up with the vigor of his own invention, doth grow in effect another nature, in making things either better than nature bringeth forth, or, quite anew, forms such as never were in nature ... so as he goeth hand in hand with nature, not enclosed within the narrow warrant of her gifts, but freely ranging only within the zodiac of his own wit. Nature never set forth the earth in so rich tapestry as divers poets have done.... Her world is brazen, the poets only deliver a golden [world].

--Sir Philip Sidney

Whom The Invention of Morel's protagonist is running from, and why, is not made clear (nor is his own name, so I will call him simply "the Fugitive" for simplicity) but the diary form of the novel and his choice of safe haven early on suggest that he seeks refuge in virtuality-specifically, in an epistolary form of identity. The Fugitive hides for several days inside one of the Persian rugs of an Italian merchant in Calcutta, enclosing himself in a woven textile for safety, even as he weaves his own self-contained yarn in a first-person diary account. This merchant provides not only the binding of a (text)ile, but also information on where the Fugitive might escape from the "real world":

"There is only one possible place for a fugitive like you-it is an uninhabited island, but a human being cannot live there. …

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