Asleep in the Sun, by Adolfo Bioy Casares

01/01/1973View on timeline


Half a century later, at the other end of the world, the Argentine writer Adolfo Bioy Casares took up the fiction of transplanting a human soul into a dog.


Although transplantation here concerns a soul rather than a brain, the procedure involves trepanning the skull and gives rise to a discussion about cerebral localization between the surgeon and the man whose wife’s soul is being transplanted:

—Remember what Descartes said? How are you going to remember if you never read him. Descartes thought that the soul was in a gland of the brain.
He said a name which sounded like “pineral” or “mineral.”
The missus’ soul? I asked.
He was so annoyed when he answered that he confused me.
—Anybody’s souls, my good man. Yours, mine.
—What’s the gland called?
—Forget it, because it doesn’t matter and it doesn’t even have the function they attributed to it.
—Then why do you mention it?
—Descartes was not wrong in principle. The soul is in the brain and we can isolate it. (Bioy Casares 2004 [1973], 160)

As other brain fictions, the transplantation theme explores the belief that “the soul” (or, in more secular terms, that which makes us the persons we are), is in the brain and is, in fact, consubstantial with it.

Vidal, Fernando and Ortega, Francisco. Being Brains: Making the Cerebral Subject (Forms of Living)....

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About the book

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. - Goodreads

Asleep in the Sun on Goodreads

Adolfo Bioy Casares (1914–1999) was an Argentine fiction writer, journalist, and translator.

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Published in 26/02/2019

Updated in 19/02/2021

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