Coyote Mercury

words, birds and whatever else by James Brush

The Lost Book Club: The Invention of Morel

Somehow, I forgot to post this after I wrote it 2 months ago…

I had to resort to interlibrary loan to get my hands on an English translation of Argentine writer Adolfo Bioy Casares’ 1940 novella The Invention of Morel. The book I received also included six short stories from La Trama Celeste, a few of which I enjoyed more than the novella.

The Invention of Morel is about a man stranded on a bizarre island quarantined due to some mysterious disease. He has fled to this island to escape prosecution, and believes he has found the perfect hideout. There are strange machines on the island along with a chapel, museum and a swimming pool. There are also people who seem unaware of presence as if they occupy a reality all their own.

As the tale progresses, the narrator comes to understand that the people on the island are reproductions coming from a projector that one of them, a man named Morel has invented. His invention records every aspect of a person even, possibly, his soul and then replays that person over and over throughout eternity.

Morel had invited his closest friends and the woman he loved, Faustine, to spend a perfect week on the island. He recorded their perfect week so that it would run in an endless loop for all eternity. Since the machine also captures soul, it effectively made those who were recorded immortal.

The side effect, of course, is the problem. Once recorded, the subject suffers dissolution and death. Morel thought that this was a fair price for his immortality, and the strange deaths would create the illusion of disease that would keep people away from the island so his machines could run along happily forever.

It takes a while (and the appearance of two suns in the sky) for the narrator to understand that the people on the island are not really alive, but rather, that he is witnessing the superimposition of Morel’s recordings on his reality. In this time, though, he too has come to love Faustine.

By the end of the story, the narrator chooses to record himself so he can live forever with Faustine in the perfect eternity of Morel’s recording, knowing full well that he will die, but by recording himself he will also have everlasting life.

The other stories in the collection are equally interesting. They tend to involve elements of the supernatural, particularly temporal paradoxes, dreams and visions, and alternate realities, “The Idol” and “The Celestial Plot” being particularly good. I’ll definitely read more by Adolfo Bioy Casares.

On to Lost. Sawyer is seen reading The Invention of Morel in the Season 4 episode “Eggtown.”

“Eggtown” is a Kate-centric episode. Like the narrator in The Invention of Morel, Kate is a fugitive from justice trapped on a strange island. I didn’t notice much in this episode that directly relates to The Invention of Morel, but it does provide hints about the island.

After reading The Invention of Morel, I began to wonder if the visions of the dead (and from the past) that we see on (and now off) the island are really projections that, like those projected from Morel’s machines, appear real in every way and even appear to have souls. The island, of course, does not need to record the person while he or she is living as it can possibly extract things from people’s memories. Thus we have Christian, Charlie, Libby, Dave, Yemi, Kate’s horse, Sayid’s cat, Ben’s mother and the others (lowercase o).

These projections are not hallucinations; they can be seen by more than one person, and they can slap people upside the head as Charlie and Dave have both done to Hurley to verify their reality. This also explains why Richard Alpert doesn’t age. He’s not immortal. He’s dead. The island projects him for reasons yet unknown.

Since we know the island can project a Charlie that can be seen by others, it’s logical to assume that it can project Richard into the off-island world to recruit people like Juliet who would never have any reason to suspect that Richard died long ago. It also explains why Jack still sees his father in the Season 3 finale.

I also suspect that the voices occasionally heard in the jungle have to do with the superimposition of one reality (the projected one) over the real reality that our survivors experience.

The Invention of Morel leaves me wondering if the island’s strange properties are not so much supernatural as they are the result of some technology. Of course, sufficiently advanced technology would appear as magic to those who do not understand it.

* * *

Now that Season 4 has concluded with the excellent three-part finale “There’s No Place Like Home,” I am more convinced than ever that Alpert is dead. I think the appearances of Claire and Horace Goodspeed in “Cabin Fever” are further proof of the island’s ability to project the dead.

It was especially interesting watching Goodspeed repeatedly chop down the same tree. Even if it was only a dream, the repetition and circular nature of the scene was very much like The Invention of Morel as well as another Lost book from way back in Season 2: The Third Policeman, in which the characters are all dead and in Hell where everything repeats (“Hell goes round and round. In shape it is circular and by nature it is interminable, repetitive and very nearly unbearable.”)

Of course, what do I know? I was way the hell off on my analysis and theorizing after last year’s season finale. I suppose I was sort of right about the time travel thing, but not in the way I thought. Of course, being wrong makes it all the more fun because everything is more surprising than it would be if I had it all figured out.

Here’s a throwaway prediction based on Morel. Locke chooses to die so he can have the “immortality” of being resurrected by the island. Like they sang in Jesus Christ Superstar, “To conquer death you only have to die.”

For more, visit Heather for her thoughts on the Lost Season 4 finale. She was right about who was in the coffin.

Click here for my thoughts on the other Lost books.

1 Comment

  1. Welcome back! I look forward to hearing about the other books from the season, as you catch up on some summer reading. I appreciate the nod, but more than that I appreciate all the little pieces of insight to enhance the overall experience of the show. I don’t read enough to keep up with all these books, but it’s been nice to read about them to get a bit of the intended flavor.

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