- Disorder and Love in La invención de Morel
In his 1932 essay, "El arte narrativo y la magia," Jorge Luis Borges postulates causality as the central problem of the novel. He distinguishes between two causal processes of writing narratives: the natural process and the magical process.
The natural process represents "una de las variedades del género, la morosa novela de caracteres, finge o dispone una concatenación de motivos que se proponen no diferir de los del mundo real" (117). Due to Borges's vision of a chaotic real world, this natural process continuously results in an endless and uncontrollable number of operations. In Borges's mind, however, the novel should not be natural, but artificial. As opposed to the disorder of the real world, the novel "debe ser un juego preciso de vigilancias, ecos y afinidades. Todo episodio, en un cuidadoso relato, es de proyección ulterior" (119-20). The magical process allows this to happen, since it obeys a general law: "la de la simpatía, que postula un vínculo inevitable entre cosas distantes" (117-8). That is, it obeys not just natural laws, but also the laws of imagination. The frenetic and precise causality of this process makes the resulting plot fully reasoned, limited and teleological.
The above-mentioned processes are implicit in Jorge Luis Borges's prologue (1940) to Adolfo Bioy Casares's La invención de Morel. The comparison between psychological and adventure novels relies a great deal on a similar rationality. Since the psychological novel tends to portray the real world with its infinite possibilities, it is shapeless. Its intrinsic and boundless freedom is equivalent to total disorder. For Borges, the psychological novel
(…) prefiere que olvidemos su carácter de artificio verbal y hace de toda vana precisión (o de toda lánguida vaguedad) un nuevo toque verosímil. Hay páginas, hay capítulos de Marcel Proust que son inaceptables como invenciones: a los que, sin saberlo, nos resignamos como a lo insípido y [End Page 87] ocioso de cada día. La novela de aventuras, en cambio, no se propone como una transcripción de la realidad: es un objeto artificial que no sufre ninguna parte injustificada.(v-vi)
According to these last words, one can easily deduce that the adventure novel relies on the magical process. Borges finishes his prologue to La invención de Morel stating that the novel is a perfect example of "imaginación razonada" (vii) within the Spanish literature world, arguing that Adolfo Bioy Casares "despliega una Odisea de prodigios que no parecen admitir otra clave que la alucinación o que el símbolo, y plenamente los descifra mediante un solo postulado fantástico pero no sobrenatural" (vii).
In Alfred Mac Adam's essay on Bioy Casares, "Adolfo Bioy Casares: Satire and Self-Portrait," he points out some insufficiencies concerning Borges's dialectics, namely the fact that, at the time he wrote these texts, significant contemporary authors were no longer concerned with writing orthodox psychological novels.1 But what matters more for our purposes is to point out Borges's obsession with an art lacking any disorder, an art that differs radically from the real world.
I do not dare to disprove Borges's thoughts about what he calls the "adventure novel," especially if one keeps in mind that his tales are exemplary representations of his theories. Although I think it would be a fascinating challenge to study the problem of order and disorder in literature through his whole work, here I will focus on questioning whether he is completely right concerning Adolfo Bioy Casares's La invención de Morel. Is this novel a perfectly ordered narrative, in the terms by which Borges defines order?
One concept that Borges flagrantly neglected in his analysis of Adolfo Bioy Casares's novel is the concept of love. This is unsurprising, as love plays a major role in the psychological novels that Borges dislikes: it introduces chaos into the causal system of his ideal narrative consisting of "vigilancias, ecos y afinidades." Perhaps it is for this reason that he excludes love from his tales.
The chaotic role of love...