A PLAN FOR ESCAPE by Adolfo Bioy-Casares


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If you recognize his name at all, it will be as the collaborator of Jorge Luis Borges, which is a little like being recognized as a famous person's spouse. To tell the truth, there's even a shadow of resemblance to the ancient Argentinian librarian-an element of spookiness, a baldness of narration, a perverse love of reality-play. But from the first page out, this is a unique, highly sticky fictional web and a genuine thriller. Told secondhand by the hero's uncle/correspondent, A Plan for Escape concerns the strange happenings on Devil's Island where Henri Nevers, a naive but pompous bohemian black sheep, is sent by the head of the family to cool his head. The exact nature of the intrigue is the mystery; that Henri, who doesn't want to get involved, will be sucked in by his boyish curiosity anyway provides the comedy. Despite Henri's awkward blundering among the grotesque guards and prisoners (including a cretinous ""Dreyfus""), the tropical atmosphere is thick with terror and suspense--and thicker still when Henri discovers one of the conspirators with blood up to his wrists performing brain surgery on a prisoner. The bizarreness of the mad-scientist plot is compounded by Henri's increasing acceptance of its utility. Translator Levine points out that this ""highly allusive and parodic text"" is Bioy-Casares' fictional response to the rise of Fascism and Nazism (he wrote this novel in 1945); but it is not dated, nor tied to a moral interpretation. You can read it, if you like, as a wonderfully contrived fantasy and an intellectual horror story.

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 1975
Publisher: Dutton