Sunday, July 11, 2010
The first part, Dos fantasías memorables, contains two short stories, each no longer than about 15 pages. These two stories, "El testigo" and "El signo," are detective stories and were published under the shared H. Bustos Domecq pseudonym that they created in 1942 for the Seis problemas para don Isidro Parodi detective fictions. Although Parodi does not enter these two stories, these are detective fictions that contain a few elements of the supernatural.
I will not waste much time on these; these were not memorable stories. For some reason, Borges and Bioy Casares did not create as good stories together as they did separately. The premise for each mystery was not interesting and the entire affair felt rather stilted, leaving me wondering if perhaps the two had chosen the wrong literary genre in which to attempt writing collaborative efforts.
The second part of this omnibus, Un modelo para la muerte, is one of the strangest fictions that I have read. Published originally under the shared pseudonym of B. Suarez Lynch, the conceit of this story is that Suarez Lynch was writing, with the explicit approval of "H. Bustos Domecq" (who purportedly wrote the prologue), a sort of fan fiction in which Isidro Parodi would appear in a story that would be a parody of the style that "Bustos Domecq" parodied in Seis problemas para don Isidro Parodi. So...here is a parody of a parody, composed by a pseudonym imitating another pseudonym, all of which ties back into Borges and Bioy Casares. Are you clear on the twists and turns yet?
Despite the satirical nature of this meta-satire, Un modelo para la muerte just did not flow well for me. The central mystery did not interest me, the satirical elements failed to engage me, and I was just left feeling blasé about the entire affair. Typically, much more would have been written, but when there is a near-total lack of engagement in these detective fictions, what's the point of elaborating any more than just noting that Borges and Bioy Casares' narrative bents clashed, that the characterizations were full of stock characters and nothing approaching an intriguing character (minus Parodi), and that the plots were a bit convoluted, due in large part to the satire of certain mystery genre conventions. This story, at 80 pages the longest that Borges had ever (co)written, just failed on so many levels.
Needless to say, Dos fantasías memorables/Un modelo para la muerte is considered by some to be Borges' weakest fictional efforts and after reading each for a second time, it is easy to understand why. I would not recommend this omnibus to anyone other than a Borges and/or Bioy Casares completist.