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Memorias: Infancia, adolescencia y como se hace un escritor.

In his collection of reminiscences, Memorias, Adolfo Bioy Casares (b. 1914 in Buenos Aires) openly discusses his early orientation toward the opposite sex, his various love interests, and his infidelities. Some of his fondest memories relate to life on the family estancia. His father looms large in these pages and deserves credit for instilling in the future writer an interest in literature. Bioy recalls, for instance, how his father would often recite to him classic selections from gaucho poetry.

Among these formative experiences the author includes two unforgettable manifestations of the fantastic: the multiple reflections that emanated from a mirror in his mother's room, and the visual effect created by a triple photo of his long-deceased grandfather. The latter, containing a center picture and two side-panel shots, gave the impression that his grandfather was having a conversation with himself. Bioy also writes of his dejection and sense of personal loss on learning of Firpo's defeat at the hands of Dempsey and a similar disillusionment over the decline of the screen career of one of his favorite actresses, Louise Brooks: "Como ante la derrota de Firpo, comprobe que la realidad y yo no estabamos de acuerdo."

Other writers play prominent roles in these memoirs. Bioy's wife, the noted poet and cuentista Silvina Ocampo, appears as his faithful companion and sometime collaborator. Conversely, he depicts his sister-in-law, the acclaimed woman of letters Victoria Ocampo, as an overbearing, domineering, larger-than-life personality. Even more fascinating is the story of his long friendship and association with Borges, "la primera persona que conoci para quien nada era mas importante que la literatura." In addition, Bioy recounts his work with Silvina and Borges on the famous Antologia de literatura fantastica, his editorial project with Borges to produce a series of detective novels, and his incompatibility with the Sur group. This section sheds light on the creation of some of his better-known works and on the writing process employed by the Borges-Bioy team.

Unlike the sweeping panorama of a full-fledged autobiography, Bioy's Memorias covers only selected moments in his life. He frequently recalls mundane occurrences, such as the time in London when, on his way to have lunch with a fellow writer, he stepped in dog manure. Oddly, he remembers this episode but has no recollection of the lunch engagement. From dog droppings Bioy turns to name-dropping, as he compiles a lengthy catalogue of writers and locales encountered during his frequent travels.

Stylistically, the volume resembles a collection of short stories: the narrator switches topics erratically; chapters are brief and episodic; not all the narratives appear significant or even interesting. Aptly titled, these vignettes and accompanying photos offer an intimate portrait of a man whose life has been intertwined with Argentine literary activity for over a half-century. The process of emerging from Borges's shadow has been a long and difficult one, and it is to his credit that Bioy Casares looks back on the experience with fondness rather than bitterness.

Melvin S. Arrington Jr. University of Mississippi
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Author:Arrington, Melvin S., Jr.
Publication:World Literature Today
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jan 1, 1995
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