Obituary: Adolfo Bioy Casares

THE WRITER Adolfo Bioy Casares will perhaps be known best outside of Argentina as the friend and co-writer of Jorge Luis Borges, a friendship that began in 1935 and lasted a lifetime.

But Bioy Casares was a stylist and for this literary ability and for his considerable output, he won the Cervantes prize, Spain's equivalent to the Nobel prize, in 1990.

His main novel, The Invention of Morel and other stories (La invencion de Morel), published in 1940 in Buenos Aires and by the University of Texas in 1961, won him the prestigious Buenos Aires Municipal Prize the following year. The book is now a classic in Argentine and Latin American literature. It is an exercise in the use of all the imaginative resources of the novel, eventually to result in a story about curiosity and ideas more than about events. Critics also place his Dream of the Hero (Sueno de los Heroes, published in Buenos Aires in 1954, and by Quartet in London in 1987) - which the film maker Sergio Renan took to the screen two years ago - as his best novel.

However, Morel has almost become a synonym of the author, as it was his best known. Diary of the War of the Pig (Diario de la Guerra del Cerdo, published in Buenos Aires in 1969, and by McGraw-Hill in New York in 1972) was the third of his main fiction titles.

Along with Borges, Ernesto Sbato and Manuel Mujica Lainez, Bioy Casares will probably remain, after the likes of poet Leopoldo Lugones and very few others, in the gallery of literary giants produced by Argentina in this century.

Bioy Casares said his life was about fantasy because in a country where politics had everything to do with personal whim, fantasy was the only reality. He enjoyed a way with words which at times seemed self-deprecating. His writing had ranged from the sublime, in Morel, to the ridiculous, as in "A Brief Dictionary of the Posh Argentine" (Breve Diccionario del Argentino Exquisito, 1978). Solemnity, he once told a friend, is what people confuse with being profound.

Even in his old age, after the death of his wife, Silvina Ocampo, in December 1993, and before that of their only daughter, in a road accident, he was still able to conjure a mixture of mischief and scandal. Two years ago he published a collection of love letters from his youth. Unfortunately, when he went to London in the early Nineties to deliver the annual "Borges Lecture," organised by the Anglo-Argentine Society, he was too frail and ill to show much of that lifelong spark.

Born as the First World War broke out, but into a comfortable land-owning family, Bioy Casares started out studying law, then moved to the school of philosophy and letters at the University of Buenos Aires. But he often said that what he enjoyed most was playing tennis. He played the game until he was 74.

This self-irony was almost out of style with the society he grew up in, but which he managed to manipulate to his own benefit. He belonged to a generation where the upper middle and wealthy classes indulged in extended travel to Paris, Rome and London and other European capitals which they felt were at the heart of the arts and literature.

His social group was for many years Argentina's establishment writers and artists who had as their core the magazine Sur, founded and led by his sister-in-law, Victoria Ocampo, better known than his wife, but considered the lesser writer of the two sisters.

His friendship with Jorge Luis Borges was not only long, but has entered Latin American literary legend. With the pen names H. Buston Domecq, B. Suarez Lynch, and B. Lynch Davis, they produced a series of satires on contemporary customs and a series of crime stories.

Between 1945 and 1960, Bioy Casares and Borges ran a publishing venture which started with the writings in translation of Cecil Day-Lewis and included Joseph Conrad, H.G. Wells and Henry James. And together they compiled numerous anthologies and a series of annotated classics. As Borges increasingly lost his sight, Bioy Casares became his eyes in their joint output.

Surprisingly for an age that requires publicity to ensure glory, Bioy Casares generated attention by saying that he was not interested in fame. When he was asked why he had agreed to pose in a credit card (American Express) advertisement last year, his rejoinder was that he had been offered a very interesting figure which he found extremely difficult to refuse.

Andrew Graham-Yooll

Adolfo Bioy Casares, writer: born Buenos Aires 15 September 1914; married 1944 Silvina Ocampo (died 1993; one daughter deceased); died Buenos Aires 8 March 1999.

Arts and Entertainment

Final Top Gear review

TV
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty and Carl Barat perform at Glastonbury 2015

music
Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Richie performs live on the Pyramid stage during the third day of Glastonbury Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
Buying a stairway to Hubbard: the Scientology centre in Los Angeles
film review Chilling inside views on a secretive church
Arts and Entertainment
The young sea-faring Charles Darwin – seen here in an 1809 portrait – is to be portrayed as an Indiana Jones-style adventurer
film
Arts and Entertainment
The audience aimed thousands of Apple’s product units at Taylor Swift throughout the show
musicReview: On stage her manner is natural, her command of space masterful
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Channel 4 is reviving its Chris Evans-hosted Nineties hit TFI Friday

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Harrison Ford plays Indiana Jones in The Last Crusade (1989)

film
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
A Glastonbury reveller hides under an umbrella at the festival last year

Glastonbury
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Miles Morales is to replace Peter Parker as the new Spider-Man

comics
Arts and Entertainment
The sequel to 1993's Jurassic Park, Jurassic World, has stormed into the global record books to score the highest worldwide opening weekend in history.

film
Arts and Entertainment
Odi (Will Tudor)
tvReview: Humans, episode 2
Arts and Entertainment
Can't cope with a Port-A-loo? We've got the solution for you

FestivalsFive ways to avoid the portable toilets

Arts and Entertainment
Some zookeepers have been braver than others in the #jurassiczoo trend

Jurassic WorldThe results are completely brilliant

Arts and Entertainment
An original Miffy illustration
art
Arts and Entertainment
Man of mystery: Ian McKellen as an ageing Sherlock Holmes
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Kitchen set: Yvette Fielding, Patricia Potter, Chesney Hawkes, Sarah Harding and Sheree Murphy
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Chris Evans has been confirmed as the new host of Top Gear
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Top of the class: Iggy Azalea and the catchy ‘Fancy’
music
Arts and Entertainment
Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters performs at Suncorp Stadium on February 24, 2015 in Brisbane, Australia.

music
Arts and Entertainment
Chris Evans had initially distanced himself from the possibility of taking the job

TV
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
British author Matt Haig

books
Arts and Entertainment
Homeland star Damian Lewis is to play a British Secret Service agent in Susanna White's film adaptation of John le Carre's Our Kind of Traitor

Film
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

    How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

    Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
    Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

    One day to find €1.6bn

    Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
    New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

    'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

    Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
    Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

    Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

    The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
    Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

    Historians map out untold LGBT histories

    Public are being asked to help improve the map
    Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

    Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

    This was the year of 24-carat Golden Oldies
    Paris Fashion Week

    Paris Fashion Week

    Thom Browne's scarecrows offer a rare beacon in commercial offerings
    A year of the caliphate:

    Isis, a year of the caliphate

    Who can defeat the so-called 'Islamic State' – and how?
    Marks and Spencer: Can a new team of designers put the spark back into the high-street brand?

    Marks and Spencer

    Can a new team of designers put the spark back into the high-street brand?
    'We haven't invaded France': Italy's Prime Minister 'reclaims' Europe's highest peak

    'We haven't invaded France'

    Italy's Prime Minister 'reclaims' Europe's highest peak
    Isis in Kobani: Why we ignore the worst of the massacres

    Why do we ignore the worst of the massacres?

    The West’s determination not to offend its Sunni allies helps Isis and puts us all at risk, says Patrick Cockburn
    7/7 bombings 10 years on: Four emergency workers who saved lives recall the shocking day that 52 people were killed

    Remembering 7/7 ten years on

    Four emergency workers recall their memories of that day – and reveal how it's affected them ever since
    Humans: Are the scientists developing robots in danger of replicating the hit Channel 4 drama?

    They’re here to help

    We want robots to do our drudge work, and to look enough like us for comfort. But are the scientists developing artificial intelligence in danger of replicating the TV drama Humans?
    Time to lay these myths about the Deep South to rest

    Time to lay these myths about the Deep South to rest

    'Heritage' is a loaded word in the Dixie, but the Charleston killings show how dangerous it is to cling to a deadly past, says Rupert Cornwell
    What exactly does 'one' mean? Court of Appeal passes judgement on thorny mathematical issue

    What exactly does 'one' mean?

    Court of Appeal passes judgement on thorny mathematical issue