This little book—written by Jorge Louis Borges's some-time collaborator—takes its inspiration from H.G. Wells's Island of Doctor Moreau, mixes it with the author's adoration of the silent-movie star Louise Brooks, and went on to inspire Robbe-Grillet and Resnais' Last Year at Marienbad (and probably countless film-theorists). It should be of interest to anyone fascinated by the ubiquity of media and mediated images in modern daily life, or anyone who likes an impossible love story.
An escapee is marooned on a formerly inhabited island. He believes he's alone until he spots the presence of a group of vacationers, dressed in resort clothing from another time. But try as he might, they just won't take notice of him. Here is his first description of "the intruders":
From the marshlands with their churning waters I can see the top of the hill, and the people who have taken up residence in the museum. I suppose someone might attribute their mysterious appearance to the effect of last night’s heat on my brain. But there are no hallucinations or imaginings here: I know these people are real—at least as real as I am.
The fact that their clothes are from another era indicates that they are a group of eccentrics; but I have known many people who use such devices to capture the magic of the past.
I watch them unwaveringly, constantly, with the eyes of a man who has been condemned to death. They are dancing on the grassy hillside as I write, unmindful of the snakes at their feet. They are my unconscious enemies who, as they corner me against the sea in the disease-infested marshes, deprive me of everything I need, everything I must have if I am to go on living. The sound of their very loud phonograph—“Tea for Two” and “Valencia” are their favorite records—seems now to be permanently superimposed on the wind and the sea.
Perhaps watching them is a dangerous pastime: like every group of civilized men they no doubt have a network of consular establishments and a file of fingerprints that can send me, after the necessary ceremonies or conferences have been held, to jail.
You can download the Reading Group Guide here and read Suzanne Jill Levine's introduction to the book here.