University of Notre Dame


Hesburgh Libraries

Rare Books & Special Collections

Adolfo Bioy Casares (1914-1999)

Black and white photograph of Adolfo Bioy Casares.

"El género policial es una de las pocas invenciones literarias de nuestro tiempo... Creemos, finalmente, que la novela policial ejerce una influencia benéfica en todas ramas de la literatura; aboga por los derechos de la construcción, de la lucidez, del orden, de la medida."

The detective genre is one of the few literary inventions of our time… We believe, in conclusion, that the detective novel exerts a beneficial influence on all branches of literature; as it champions the rights of structure, clarity, order and moderation.

ABC de Adolfo Bioy Casares.
Daniel Martino. Buenos Aires: Emecé Editores, 1989.

Throughout a career that spanned more than sixty years the great Argentine author Adolfo Bioy Casares distinguished himself as one of Latin America's most outstanding literary voices. His great friend and collaborator Jorge Luis Borges often referred to Bioy (as he was called) as one of the most important writers of the twentieth century. The original materials related to Bioy Casares in this collection were made possibly through the generosity of Robert (ND '63) and Beverly O'Grady (SMC '63).

Biographical Information

Cover from Los que aman, odian, a collaborative effort between Adolfo Bioy Casares and his wife Silvina Ocampo.

A member of an upper-class Argentine family, Bioy Casares traveled to Europe and the United States in the 1920s. In 1932 he met Borges - and there began an intimate friendship that would last until the latter's death in 1986. This same year marked the beginning of his long association with Victoria Ocampo, founder of the important literary magazine Sur and one of the most influential cultural figures in Argentine. In 1933 he began studies at the University of Buenos Aires, but dropped out soon thereafter in order to dedicate himself to a career as a writer. In 1940 Bioy Casares married Silvina Ocampo, Victoria's sister, who was also an a very talented writer poetry and fiction. In that year he also published what is arguably his most important book, and a classic work of Latin American fiction, La invención de Morel, which was awarded The First Municipal Prize for Literature of the City of Buenos Aires.

For well over half a century Bioy Casares was an active member of the Argentine cultural scene and a prolific writer. His publications include numerous novels, close to a dozen works of short fiction and collections of short stories, articles and essays and miscellaneous prose works, several well-know collaborations with Borges, published under the pseudonyms H. Bustos Domecq and B. Suárez Lynch, a detective novel written with his wife Silvina Ocampo (cover at right), and an anthology of fantastic literature that he edited with Borges and his wife. His works have been translated into many languages, and in recent years there has been a growing critical interest in his works.

In the words of Suzanne Jill Levine, perhaps Bioy Casares' most astute literary critic and translator of a number of his works into English, this Argentine author is "an urbane comedian, a parodist who turns fantasy and science fiction inside out to explore the banality of our scientific, intellectual, and especially erotic pretensions. Behind his post-Kafka, pre-Woody Allen sense of nonsense," she continues, "is a metaphysical vision, particularly of life's brevity and the slippery terrain of love." In 1990 Adolfo Bioy Casares' outstanding literary career was recognized with the prestigious Cervantes Prize, the highest distinction for writers in Spanish. He died in 1999 in Buenos Aires.

First Editions in the Collection

The Adolfo Bioy Casares collection consists of an excellent selection of rare first editions of the author's most significant works. One of the rarest pieces is in the collection is the first edition of the author's second book, 17 disparos contra lo porvenir (at top right), a collection of short fiction published in Buenos Aires in 1933 under the pseudonym Martín Sacastru.

Another notable item in the collection is a beautiful first edition in the original dust jacket of La invención de Morel (at bottom right). This short novel, based on H. G. Wells' The Island of Doctor Moreau (1896) and illustrated by Norah Borges, opened an extremely important decade of development for Latin American fiction and was read and admired by the likes of Julio Cortázar, Juan Carlos Onetti, Alejo Carpentier, Gabriel García Márquez and, of course, Jorge Luis Borges. Referring to the work's ingenious and plot Borges remarked in his classic prologue to the novel that "to classify it as perfect is neither an imprecision nor a hyperbole."

Other important works in the Bioy Casares collection include several very early titles written while the author was just over twenty years old. Among these rare gems are Caos (1934), La nueva tormenta, o la vida múltiple de Juan Rutero (1935), and La estatua casera (1936). The latter two titles (below left) include attractive pen and ink illustrations by the author's future wife, Silvina Ocampo. Many first editions of Bioy Casares' novels - several inscribed by the author - are also among the titles represented: Plan de evasión (1945), El sueño de los héroes (1954), El gran serafín (1967; below right) and Diario de la guerra del cerdo (1969) to name a few.

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Unique Pieces, Manuscript Materials, and Special Editions

A unique copy of a hand-corrected chapter of an early work of fiction, Luis Greve, muerto (1937), and the original hand-corrected typescript of Guirnalda con amores are among the more fascinating pieces in the collection. Other interesting items include: a manuscript letter from 1952 (pictured at right); a beautiful, limited edition (283/500) of Las vísperas de Fausto (1949) with a portrait of the author by Hector Basaldúa; and the fourth of eighty copies of the deluxe edition of El sueño de los héroes (1997), which includes an original watercolor portrait of the author by Cristina Gómez Moscoso.

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Description of Archival Collection (MSH/SCL 1032-1 to 1032-4 and 1034-1)

The Department of Special Collections holds three letters from Bioy Casares to Antonio Aita, his personal friend and the President of the PEN (poets, essayists, and narrators) International Club. Bioy Casares represented the Argentine delegation at the official meeting in France for the year 1951, and during this time sent two typed letters to Aita. The first is his official report of the meeting. It details resolutions proposed by other delegations, the most controversial of which is a joint resolution from the Americans and Eastern Europeans asking the Club to openly call for peace. In the second letter Bioy Casares gives his personal opinion on each of the resolutions. Interestingly, it also contains his poetic plea to be released from an agreement to give a lecture on André Gide due to his extreme fear of public speaking. The last letter to Aita is dated April 1952, and is a handwritten note of best wishes for the Club's activities during the coming year.

In addition to these letters, the Collection also holds a signed first edition of Guirnalda con amores, dedicated to María Teresa. With this edition comes an unbound typescript of the entire work that has been edited by hand with the corrections still clearly visible. Finally, the manuscript is accompanied by a newspaper clipping from La nación, entitled, "Los infinitos mundos de Adolfo Bioy Casares," in which Ernesto Schoo provides an overview of the author's work and brief description of his life.

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Bioy Casares, Adolfo. Guirnalda con amores. Buenos Aires: Emecé Editores, c1959. (Hesburgh Library, General Collection: PQ 7797 .B535 G95 1978b)

Levine, Suzanne J. "Adolfo Bioy Casares." Modern Latin-American Fiction Writers. Ed. William Luis. Detroit: Gale Research Inc., 1992. p. 55-66. (Hesburgh Library, Reference: PQ 7082 .N7 M55 1992)

Villordo, Oscar Hermes. Genio y figura de Adolfo Bioy Casares. Buenos Aires: Editorial Universitaria de Buenos Aires, 1983. (Hesburgh Library, General Collection: PQ 7797 .B535 Z924 1983)

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