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Adolfo Casares; Argentine Author of Fantasies, Satires

March 11, 1999| From Times Staff and Wire Reports

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina — Adolfo Bioy Casares, the celebrated Argentine writer known for his use of fantasy and his collaborations with literary giant Jorge Luis Borges, has died. He was 84.

Known to fans as Bioy, the author of "The Invention of Morel," died Monday at a Buenos Aires hospital. He was reportedly suffering from heart and respiratory problems.

Born into a wealthy family Sept. 15, 1914, Casares studied law, but a passion for writing inspired him to switch to the study of philosophy and literature.

He met Borges in 1932 and began a lifelong collaboration. Together, they edited the literary magazine Inopportune and under a variety of pen names collaborated on a series of social satires and lampoons. Those included "Six Problems for Don Isidro Parodi" and "Chronicles of Bustos Domecq," both of which satirize Argentine personalities.

Casares' 1940 novel, "The Invention of Morel," is considered his finest work and was translated into 19 languages. The book is a fantasy about a fugitive who falls in love with a woman eventually revealed to be an image created by a movie projector.

"When I like what I've written in another language, it's because it's good," he said in 1993. "I might add that it is very difficult to write a book and continue admiring it."

The book was made into an art house hit film, "Last Year at Marienbad," in 1961.

Casares' works also include "The Dream of Heroes," a 1954 novel about love and memory, and "Diary of the War of the Pig," a 1969 work of political satire and science fiction.

A 1988 Times review of the two books in translation rated "Heroes" the superior work, adding that it "commands our admiration . . . and places Casares in Borges' shadow."

"Casares hit .500 with these two books," the reviewer concluded, "not a bad average for anyone. As for the echoes of Borges' style and methods, my guess is that it would be almost impossible not to continue hearing the master's voice in your head even after he died. There is something wonderfully Borgesian in that."

Casares received the $129,000 Cervantes Prize in 1990, the highest honor bestowed by Spain on writers in the language.

"I am overwhelmed with happiness and a bit flustered," he said when he went to Madrid to accept the prize.

A storied ladies man, Casares was married to the late Silvina Ocampo, who was also a writer. The couple had a daughter, Marta, who died in a 1993 car accident. He is survived by three granddaughters and a son out of wedlock whom he acknowledged a few months ago.

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