Adolfo Bioy Casares recipe for magical realism could apply to the works of Kafka and Borges (Casares' friend and sometime collaborator ) as well as to his own: "For fantastic stories to be persuasive and convince the reader, they must be very realistic in the narration." In his introduction, James Sallis suggests that as people go about their lives, "fantastic events occur above their heads, in the next room, in the corners of bureau drawers." The intersection of the fantastic and the quotidian is not so much a shock as a leakage. "Always there is in Bioy's work," observes Sallis, "this sense of other worlds all about us, worlds that, to plunge into our own, require only a small opening, a sliphole."
In Asleep in the Sun, Lucio Bordenave experiences that leakage. His chronically unhappy wife, Diana, is further distressed when Lucio loses his job at the bank. Her mental health slips until she is anxious to enter a sanitarium which seems to combine elements of mental institution and pet hospital. Lucio desperately misses his choleric mate although his misery is challenged by the attentions first of his wife's lookalike sister and later by his neighbor's wife. When Diana finally returns, she is far more agreeable than previously. Lucio likes her better this way but is unsure if he loves her. As the sliphole into the fantastic leads in ever stranger directions, Lucio must decide if his dog, also named Diana, has become the true host of his wife's spirit. In trying to solve this problem, Lucio bravely enters the sanitarium and asks indelicate questions. It is at this point, the novel becomes ever more harrowing and the path back to "reality" more difficult to discern.
As with Kafka, Borges and Marquez, Bioy utilizes the fantastic to delineate the real. A Day in the Sun is a love story that explores the nature of connection and of identity. It also functions as political parable and cerebral adventure story.
Lucio's stolid nature, as well as his love for his wife, is his greatest asset as he enters this strange world lying so close to our own. Critic Thomas Beltzer says of Bioy's narrators: "The strangeness is not just in the observed but in the observer." Part of Bioy's art is to encourage the reader/observer to test the line between real and fantastic while experiencing the book. If the observer can accept and move through the small opening with the author, he will find Asleep in the Sun a rewarding fable.