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Dormir au soleil (1973)

par Adolfo Bioy Casares

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307866,482 (3.53)24
Lucio, a normal man in a normal (nosy) city neighborhood with normal problems with his in-laws (ever-present) and job (he lost it) finds he has a new problem on his hands: his beloved wife, Diana. She's been staying out till all hours of the night and grows more disagreeable by the day. Should Lucio have Diana committed to the Psychiatric Institute, as her friend the dog trainer suggests? Before Lucio can even make up his mind, Diana is carted away by the mysterious head of the institute. Never mind, Diana's sister, who looks just like Diana--and yet is nothing like her--has moved in. And on the recommendation of the dog trainer, Lucio acquires an adoring German shepherd, also named Diana. Then one glorious day, Diana returns, affectionate and pleasant. She's been cured!--but have the doctors at the institute gone too far? Asleep in the Sun is the great work of the Argentine master Adolfo Bioy Casares's later years. Like his legendary Invention of Morel, it is an intoxicating mixture of fantasy, sly humor, and menace. Whether read as a fable of modern politics, a meditation on the elusive parameters of the self, or a most unusual love story, Bioy's book is an almost scarily perfect comic turn, as well as a pure delight.… (plus d'informations)
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» Voir aussi les 24 mentions

Affichage de 1-5 de 8 (suivant | tout afficher)
  chrisvia | Apr 29, 2021 |
Amazing book, but the NYRB synopsis is somehow both a huge spoiler, and completely inaccurate... ( )
  jimctierney | Jul 7, 2020 |


Asleep in the Sun - This short, crisp Adolfo Bioy Casares nuthouse novel (67 chapters in less than 200 pages) should come with a warning: beware the booby hatch, fear the funny farm, look out or you’ll wind up in the loony bin.

I know, I know, hardly politically correct but such language is very much in keeping with the spirit of the book where men and women “had to be put away” for no more compelling reason than in certain Buenos Aires neighborhoods sending your spouse to the madhouse amounted to a current fad.

Fantástico Buenos Aires. Must be something in the maté everyone drinks to make their imagination dance the tango. To add a dash of local color, the street art I’ve included here is from the fair Argentine city.

Other than a few pages at the end, the entire book is Lucio Bordenave writing a long letter to his friend. Poor Lucio! He dearly loves his wife Diana and regrets sending her off to undergo a new treatment hatched by psychiatrists at the local insane asylum. But it appeared to Lucio to be sound reasoning at the time - after all, a dog trainer by the name of Professor Standle advised psychiatric intervention since Diana couldn’t make up her mind which dog to bring home for a pet, couldn't even decide after multiple visits to his dog kennel. Oh well, Lucio has to live with his decision.

But not long thereafter, as bad luck would have it, events come full circle: that letter Lucio is writing his friend is being written after Lucio is locked up in a padded cell on the fifth floor of a bughouse. Watch out for those doctors with their injection needles, Lucio! You just might wind up on the operating table as part of an experiment that usually only happens in horror films or tales of the fantastic.



Speaking of the fantastic, Adolfo Bioy Casares had none other than Jorge Luis Borges for a mentor. I can detect Borges' influence on the author - this pithy novel is so well written and tightly constructed it is a close cousin to one of the master's longer tales. But let me tell you folks, Asleep in the Sun is wacky and screwball with an unexpected jaw-dropping twist at the end.

Not one more word about plot other than saying I was reminded at points of the Mad Hatter's tea party. Rather, to convey a sense of what Lucio must contend with, here's several telling snapshots:

Our nervous narrator lives with his wife’s family in a close-knit Buenos Aires neighborhood. But once inside, he’s subjected to a continual stream of aggravation, arguments and attitude - in a very real sense Lucio is a prisoner in his own home. Ever since Lucio lost his job at the bank, he spends more time in his watchmaking shop. But he can’t get away from the noisy, nosy neighbors. Complaining about all the noise is useless. His father-in-law tells him: “Normal boys express themselves by setting off firecrackers, ripping open cat’s bellies and fist-fighting.”

When “the misses” (the way Lucio refers to his wife) is bouncing off the walls in the rubber room at the ward, he brings home a dog also named Diana, a wonderful, playful pet with such an affectionate heart, a gentle, agreeable companion. If only humans could be so affectionate and agreeable . . . hmmm, maybe something can be done about that.

An old snarling relative, Ceferina, lives in the house as does Adriana María, Diana’s sister, a woman who looks very much like Diana except for different color hair. When Diana is locked away, one night Adriana María comes after Lucio in his bedroom and tells him she’s a real tiger. Lucio rejects her offer and several days later is treated to Adriana María’s fury: “I always thought you were more of a man, but I swear, now I understand my sister and I even sympathize with her and I congratulate her with all my heart for going after the dog trainer.” No exactly the family harmony a high-strung man like Lucio is looking for.



When Diana finally returns home, Lucio is all tears and kisses. But there are those other members of the family that must be dealt with. During one holiday get-together, Lucio and Diana go out to join others like “two Christians facing the lions.” It doesn’t take long before Adriana María lashes out at her sister. Diana’s father, Don Martín, becomes furious and rails at daughter Adriana María, “First you tell me what’s the big idea talking that way to my Diana, who just got out of the nuthouse?” Ah, family. Such sensitivity.

What I’ve noted here does not cover the last dozen or so chapter following Lucio being jabbed by a needle and waking up in a white room in a bed with white iron posts. Then much of the fun really begins. There’s Dr. Samaniego and Dr. Rivaroli and luscious nurse Paula who assures Lucio she is on his side. Lucio reaction to the head doctor when certain revelations are made: “You’ve lost your sense of decency. Didn’t they ever tell you that you shouldn’t mess around with people like that? I’m telling you. You think you’re a great man and you’re a common merchant of bodies and souls. A butcher.”

What does it all mean? I urge you to read this overlooked classic to find out. But as you are reading please keep in mind what the Doormouse said.




Adolfo Bioy Casares, 1914-1999

"I recall those last days with true apprehension. They reappear in my mind enveloped in a strange light, as if they were views or paintings of a nightmare in progress where the whole world, the children and the people I bear closest to my heart, suddenly pursue some incredibly evil design." - Adolfo Bioy Casares, Asleep in the Sun
  Glenn_Russell | Nov 13, 2018 |
Novela sobre el amor y la identidad personal.
  LarenasA | Apr 1, 2015 |
Lucio Bordenave lives in a modest home in a small alley, along with his wife Diana, a woman of modest beauty and frequent, unpredictable tempers, and Doña Ceferina, an older relative who serves as the couple's housekeeper but excels at stirring up trouble between them and Diana's cantankerous family. Lucio is also surrounded by meddlesome neighbors who offer less than helpful advice on his troubled marriage, and his only escape is to his room, where he earns a profitable living as a repairer of clocks.

A friend of Diana's, noting her difficult behavior, encourages Lucio to have her committed to a nearby mental institution, as the man is a close friend of the head physician there, who he thinks can help her. Lucio reluctantly does so, but almost immediately regrets his decision. When she is released weeks later she is a changed woman, happy and full of life and love for her husband, but Lucio realizes that something isn't quite right, even though likes the "new" Diana considerably better. He visits the friend who recommended Diana's institutionalization, then returns to the asylum, where he makes a discovery that is shocking to him and a threat to his marriage and to the residents of his community.

Asleep in the Sun is a surreal and allegorical novel, mixed with wry humor, menace and a touch of magical realism. This is normally the type of book that I thoroughly enjoy; however, unlike The Obscene Bird of Night, the brilliant novel by José Donoso, I found myself far less interested in Casares' characters or the plot as a whole. Part of the reason may be that I read the description of the book on its back cover, which negatively influenced my approach to the novel, as other reviewers have said. It was an moderately enjoyable read, albeit a disappointing one, and I may give it another chance in the future to see if I like it better on a second reading. ( )
  kidzdoc | Nov 3, 2013 |
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Lucio, a normal man in a normal (nosy) city neighborhood with normal problems with his in-laws (ever-present) and job (he lost it) finds he has a new problem on his hands: his beloved wife, Diana. She's been staying out till all hours of the night and grows more disagreeable by the day. Should Lucio have Diana committed to the Psychiatric Institute, as her friend the dog trainer suggests? Before Lucio can even make up his mind, Diana is carted away by the mysterious head of the institute. Never mind, Diana's sister, who looks just like Diana--and yet is nothing like her--has moved in. And on the recommendation of the dog trainer, Lucio acquires an adoring German shepherd, also named Diana. Then one glorious day, Diana returns, affectionate and pleasant. She's been cured!--but have the doctors at the institute gone too far? Asleep in the Sun is the great work of the Argentine master Adolfo Bioy Casares's later years. Like his legendary Invention of Morel, it is an intoxicating mixture of fantasy, sly humor, and menace. Whether read as a fable of modern politics, a meditation on the elusive parameters of the self, or a most unusual love story, Bioy's book is an almost scarily perfect comic turn, as well as a pure delight.

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