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Where is the Island?

While finding inspiration for this week’s blog post, I stumbled upon an interesting fact on The Invention of Morel‘s Wikipedia page. The section “Plot Introduction” states that “A fugitive hides on a deserted island somewhere in Polynesia. Tourists arrive, and his fear of being discovered becomes a mixed emotion when he falls in love with one of them. He wants to tell her his feelings, but an anomalous phenomenon keeps them apart.” Now, like other students, I am against using Wikipedia as a source, and was actually trying to find some scholarly articles on the novel by way of the page’s cited sources. Yet, this sentence stumbled me, mainly because I had read the book thinking the island had no clear location. As a reader, it is more interesting and fitting with the mood of the book to imagine the island as completely isolated and removed from reality–this explains the mystical, sci-fi like elements that happen once Morel reveals his invention, and also adds to the creepy, abandoned feeling that permeates the entire island. The perceived, Polynesian location of the island removes that fantastical, mysterious element, but gives the story more of a realistic grounding. In your opinion, does it matter if the island has an actual location or not? If the island is indeed in Polynesia, how does that new location help the mysterious, non-realistic elements of the novel? Where do you think the island is located?

When Will Projections Go Too Far?

In the Invention of Morel, the unthinkable is created- a projection of reality that will repeat the same week over and over for eternity on a desolate island, rendering the participants “immortal.” The projection is so believable that it takes until the Fugitive sees the inventor, Morel, confess his plan to the groups for him to realize that the projections are not living people. This confession makes everything else make sense- the two moons, the dead fish in the aquarium, the people shivering in the heat.

This revelation is unsettling. Even with the glitches, the projection was good enough to seem true. However, the book seems less unsettling because at the end of the day, we can close the book and just say it isn’t real. Or at least we use to. It’s scary the leaps and bounds technology has been able to make recently. The possibilities of Photoshop and Virtual Reality are unbelievable. For the most part they are not used for corrupt reasons but not always, and at what point will photos remain reliable pieces of information? And as I mentioned in class, there is now an app online called FakeApp which will let you doctor videos. Some of it is good fun, like putting your face on top of Jimmey Kimmel’s so it looks like you are hosting the Oscars, but other scenarios are far darker- like putting Michelle Obama’s face into a pornographic video. As the New York Times reports, an app of this power may spell a dark future in politics as it improves (Roose). Many of these videographers are amateurs, so the “glitches” are obvious, but some videos are frighteningly good. What may have seem like science-fiction in the Invention of Morel may not be as unimaginable as before. In the age of fake news, it will continue to become harder to tell what is real.


Kevin Roose. “Here Come The Fake Videos, Too.” 4 Mar. 2018. Web. 7 Mar. 2018.

The Invention of Morel

I only minimally enjoyed this novel, especially after the mysterious occurrences on the island are straightforwardly explained by Morel. I clung to the suspense, which after being shattered left me feeling that the story could have ended. I thus wish the mystery was prolonged, for as intellectuals we would have figured it out. And if not, there is always joy in having ideas left to one’s interpretation. Now, when I think about why I am not a huge fan of this novel (this is not to say that it was horrible, as it is well written and I appreciate the idea of reproducing reality/ creating immorality), I must begin with the narrator. I would argue that he was delusional, but that it is justified. I am sure no reader can say that they would not have acted as he did if you were a fugitive who escaped to an island only to find out that your “safe haven” has been intruded by people who completely ignore your presence. If I was the narrator, I would have gone insane. However, while I do see his actions as justified, I was still highly annoyed at how he embraced the role of the victim, acting as if Faustine’s refusal to acknowledge him was her merely trying to defy him, and feeling that the people’s sole purpose was to capture him. While his curiosity and courage is admirable in the face of such immense fear and confusion, I found myself screaming at him (I tend to be very invested when I read) out of frustration. In addition, the fact that this story had a Déjà vu  aspect was interesting, but I did notice that I was reading similar passages over again, and I longed for something new and exciting to emerge. However, the one thing that struck me was when the narrator starts to die (102) after having inserted himself into the eternal recording. This was somewhat foreshadowed in the beginning of the story by the rug merchant (10), and at that moment everything made complete sense to me.

Lastly, the two things that were very interesting to me while reading were the footnotes and the narrator’s final request. At first the footnotes made me feel as though the narrator was unreliable, but now learning about Morel’s invention, and seeing the narrator’s transition before and after he learns that the people are images (he is less frantic and fearful), I started to question the editor’s intentions, and am not fully trusting of these provided notes. But, I do feel that including them in the story was very interesting, as it kept me on my feet and I hoped to find a footnote that would challenge my existing perception. Finally, as for the narrator’s final request in the last paragraph on page 103, he asks if the reader happens to find a way to invent a machine to assemble disjoined presences, that they, “Find Faustine and me, let me enter the heaven of her consciousness” (103). I think his last remark addresses the twelfth question that Professor Serrano raises on the handout, “Does he find immorality with Faustine?” According to his request, I would say that he has found immorality, but it may not have been what he truly desired. As is mentioned in the book, we do not know whether the people can feel or have emotions in the way they did when they were alive, because they are mere images. Thus, the narrator’s request proves that he understands that while he may be able to be with Faustine, the love may not be real or reciprocated,  and only until he enters her consciousness will he have a chance at ever being authentically loved by Faustine.

Also a quick question: Who is the person on the front cover? At first I thought it must be Faustine, but after reading about what she looks like, I figured it isn’t her. After seeing another cover of an early version of this book, which was of the island (seems more fitting), I question why this cover was originated, and what it signifies.

Be Right Back

I had an interesting experience reading The Invention of Morel for many reasons, one of which being the notes previously written in the margins (in my used copy of the book). The previous reader of my copy was clearly not a fan of the narrator’s obsession with Faustine, leaving notes such as “CREEPY” and “weird dude just stop” (both on page 59, when the narrator is talking about how his love for her has become annoying, at the same time acknowledging that they have never spoken). Notes with these sort of messages — such as “so weird” and “overall really creepy” — were prevalent in the margins throughout much of the story. And while I certainly agree with these sentiments, I picked up on something else that I really wanted to talk about in this blog post. Parts of the story, specifically Morel’s invention, reminded me of the Black Mirror episode “Be Right Back,” in which a woman who loses her husband in a car accident uses technology to resurrect a version of him — one that looks and talks like he does, but is not wholly him. Some moments, such as Morel attempting to reassure the group about their dead friend Charlie by saying “‘But I have him! If anyone would like to see him, I can show him to you. He was one of my first successful experiments'” (67) — evoked memories of this episode. And the wife, living in a different plane of existence than the replication of her dead husband, reminds me of the line: “to be in love with one of those images was worse than being in love with a ghost (perhaps we always want the person we love to have the existence of a ghost)'” (75). It’s a great episode that ties really well with a lot of the concepts presented in this story.

Whining about Tinkercad and Sketchfab

I found Tinkercad to be an enjoyable introduction to 3D design, but limited in its capabilities. My single largest complaint was the lack of control when it came to color/ shading/ textures/ uploaded images. You can pick the color of each individual shape, but there are no options for designing gradients and textures. I wish you could individually paint planes on a shape, for instance- creating a cube with a different color on each side. It would also be great if Tinkercad allowed you to upload images and lay them across surfaces. Grouped shapes must be the same color—if you group two differently colored shapes, they combine into a monochromatic shape. This consequence of grouping shapes could be a tad frustrating, as grouping shapes makes them easier to move/ rescale/ reshape. In order to work with conjoined shapes of different colors, I had to first drag over the shapes with the select tool. A larger workspace would be nice. The user-created shapes need to be organized further than simply two sections (I believe they include Popular and All).

Having said all of those complaints, I think the whole point of Tinkercad is that it is an introduction, teaching users the basic principles of 3D design. In other words, the program is designed for beginners (like me!). If my suggestions were implemented, it may overcomplicate the program beyond the needs of its intended users. I do wish more creative applications offered Basic and Advanced modes. For instance, if Photoshop could switch back and forth between its current form and a simplified version designed for casual users. These applications could attract wider audiences and enhance some users’ experience by offering Basic modes.

I had a much worse experience with Sketchfab. The main flaw seems to be the automatic adjustments applied after uploading an object. I made a pair of silver slippers, and Sketchfab changed their starting perspective to looking up at the bottom of the soles. Their preview and opening perspective on Tinkercad were front-facing, but Sketchfab converted them to a bottom-facing perspective. Sketchfab also has very specific automatic light settings (they love atmospheric pink). These automatic light settings feel too stylized, and should maybe be replaced with more neutral lighting. I found the Sketchfab controls to be over my head at first, but I eventually figured out how to adjust the perspective and lighting. The lighting (including the background colors) made my slippers more dynamic, as various shades of lighting give my slippers different coloring from each angle.

Borges’s prologue

After learning what’s really happening on the island, I found myself thinking back to and agreeing with Borges’s prologue to the book. I think that a plot like that of The Invention of Morel is both harder to write and more engaging to read than the plots of “realistic” psychological novels, which are often lauded as more deserving of literary attention. A lot of the literature classes I’ve taken have focused on books where very little happens except in the minds of the characters. At the same time, the creative writing classes have warned us to avoid so-called “bathtub stories” – a story in which nothing physically happens as the character, for example, sits in a bathtub and reflects on their life. A lot of literary academia seems to see “bathtub stories” as the ultimate form of art, while deriding more eventful stories as “genre fiction,” or, god forbid, “fantasy.”

Borges rejects the idea that entertaining books are less deep or artistic than books that drag on with barely any plot. Just because a novel is enjoyable to read, it doesn’t mean that it’s pandering to the lowest common denominator, or whatever else literary snobs think of it. The Invention of Morel shows that entertaining novels can be just as meaningful and artful as more “realistic” texts, if not more so.

Consciousness and Personhood

The fugitive talks about Morel’s illusions as a kind of immortality in which the soul relives that one segment of their life. There’s an assumption here that the images have souls and count as life, and I’m not sure that I buy that assumption. The fugitive gives Morel’s argument for the souls of the images on page 71 saying: “If we grant consciousness, and all that distinguishes us from objects, to the persons who surround us, we shall have no valid reason to deny it to the persons created by my machinery. When all the senses are synchronized, the soul emerges” (Casares 71). The latter part of that explanation is very similar to one of the class definitions of reality that we came up with at the beginning of the semester (reality is what you perceive with your senses according to this definition). For Morel the soul seems to be composed of one’s sensory perceptions. (This potentially runs into issues when talking about people who don’t experience all of the sense such as blind or deaf people, but that’s not what I’m looking at right here). The first part connects consciousness to personhood, and establishes consciousness as something that one attributes to other people. On the one hand one can never truly know what other people think and feel, or to put it more extremely whether or not other people really exist and have thoughts and feelings. This problem comes up a lot in discussions of artificial intelligence. How can you tell if a robot can think? Morel does not attribute any importance to this question. For him, the robot just needs to experience the senses to be a person. If a robot or illusion is life-like enough that people think it’s a real person, then for Morel it is a real person. But I disagree with the idea that consciousness is something one grants to other people. If a person sees someone else and thinks they are awake and conscious when they are really asleep, that person’s perception will not change the reality of the sleeper. If the recorded actions of Morel’s illusions make them real people who think and feel, then why would characters on film be real? Because they are two-dimensional? Considering AI as people is fine with me, but I do not think the illusions fall into this category.

The issue then becomes how one defines personhood and consciousness. I do not believe that one grants other people consciousness, though one’s perception of consciousness will affect how they go about in the world. For me, I think personhood lies more in the mind, in the thoughts and feelings. I also think it has to do with interaction with other people. Although I’m not sure how to explain that in a way that excludes the illusions even though I do not think they should be included. They do interact with each other, and there are real people who will never interact with each other even though those people all exist simultaneously. Perhaps a better definition with would have to do with creativity. The illusions are incapable of new reactions, experiences, or active interactions. Perhaps life is the potential for a future. If anyone else has thoughts on how this could be better defined, I’d love to hear your takes on this.

What is going on?

When one begins to read a new book, it sometimes takes a few pages, or maybe even a full chapter, to become acquainted with the new characters and setting. However, in The Invention of Morel, the confusion that we begin the book with stays with us throughout almost the entire text. It often seems that the more we learn about the island and the people that may or may not be on it, the more questions we have about what is really happening here. But this state of confusion might be necessary in order for us to sympathize with our unnamed narrator. Since we know very little about him, and cannot be sure of what we do know, the only thing we can be sure to have in common is that we are all just attempting to find some truth in the chaos of this story.  Eventually, I realized that there may not be any truth to be found and that chaos can be enjoyed and experienced simply as what it is. This seems to be where the postmodernism enters the text, as it almost teaches us to adopt that point of view.

An unlikable protagonist

While much has been made of how unreliable the narrator in “The Invention of Morel” is, I also found our paranoid fugitive to be, at times, a distinctly unlikable protagonist. This made it all the more impressive that I still found myself sympathetic to his plight, and interested in the story.

The narrator is a bit crazy, which is understandable, but does not make him easy to relate to. He is trapped on an island, hunted for a crime he didn’t commit, and surrounded by fantastical projections of people. Anyone would be a little loopy. However, it is the way this madness accentuates common human characteristics that most affected me. The narrator is extremely paranoid, believing at several points in the story that the people throwing a party on this deserted island are part of some elaborate ruse by the police to catch him. Although this doesn’t make any sense, if the police knew he was there, why would they waste time throwing this strange party for weeks on end to catch him, he brings up the possibility several times throughout the story. The most striking was immediately after he heard Morel’s explanation of his machine. Even after hearing the reason for all the strange happenings around the island, he still believes that it is about him. This reflects people’s natural self-centeredness. We often believe everything revolves around us. So when this point is brought to its extreme in “The Invention of Morel”, it annoyed me, but also made me think.

I also didn’t like the narrator’s treatment of Faustine, and women in general. Obviously he was projecting onto her throughout the story. He very much objectified her, and, even if she turned out to be a projection, indeed, almost an object, it still did not endear the narrator to me.

Despite all of this, I still found the book a fascinating and fun read, and was especially interested in our main character. This shows how well written “The Invention of Morel” was.

Morel Trailers and Modern/Post-Modern Theatre

I really enjoyed the third video we watched in class today and I wanted to reflect on it a little bit.  It was strange, sure, but I think it was able to achieve something the other trailers did not.  While the second trailer was true to the events of the novel, it didn’t contain the same air of mystery and uncertainty.  Throughout most of the novel, the reader is actively trying to solve a mystery, constantly searching for the truth.  They’re not sure what is real or who they can trust, since the narrator is clearly unreliable.  The third video captured this confusion and, as a result, the need to find truth in the chaos.  In addition, I think it was able to evoke the emotional state of the fugitive.  While watching it, I was not only confused, but a little scared.  The slowly descending drone in the background filled me with suspense, dread, and paranoia.  The video made me able to understand what it would feel like to be the fugitive, a hunted man trapped on a deserted island who suffers from hallucinations due to fever, hunger, and eating strange plants while being haunted by images.  I personally found that to be a more fulfilling and worthwhile viewing experience rather than just watching events that I’ve already read play out in front of me as they were previously described.

What I also found interesting about the third video was how it tied into avant-garde theatre movements in the modernist and post-modernist eras.  We talked in class about the two movements in general as well as art from the time, but we didn’t really touch the theatre of the time, something I’ve been discussing in my avant-guard theatre class.  Modernist theatre included the symbolist movement.  Symbolism was all about using all creating images using all aspects of theatre (from movement to colored lights to cryptic text) as metaphors to evoke emotion or spiritual understanding.  They rejected realism because they felt that realism did not lead to truth.  Post-modernist theatre included the dada movement.  Dada-ism embraced chaos and irrationality in protest of intellectual elitism that participants believed plagued the art scene at the time and lead to war.  By putting what was essentially nonsense onstage, they attempted to tear down social hierarchy within the theatre community and the society around them.  I think the video we watch today exemplifies symbolist and dada-ist elements.  The video is neither realistic nor rational, but the chaos leads to an emotional/spiritual understanding of the novel.  Therefore I think that this video was the best representation of The Invention of Morel because it evoked the emotions of the readers and protagonist as well as reflected art movements that scholars associate with the novel and  represented the cultural movements of the time.