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And the queen gave birth to a son named Asterion. I know they accuse me of arrogance, perhaps also of misanthropy, perhaps madness too. Such accusations which I shall castigate in due course are laughable. Anyone who wishes may enter. One will not find feminine extravagance here, nor gallant courtly ritual, just quiet and solitude.
Here one will find a house like no other on the face of the Earth. They who declare that in Egypt exists another similar are lying. Even my detractors admit that there is not a single piece of furniture in the house. Another ridiculous tale claims that I, Asterion, am a prisoner.
Need I repeat that there are no closed doors? Should I add that there are no locks? Besides, I did one evening step out onto the street; if I returned home before nightfall, I did so because of the fear that the faces of the hoi polloi, faces discoloured and plain like an open hand, had induced in me.
The sun had already set, but the helpless cry of a babe and the coarse supplications of the common herd signalled that I had been recognised.
The people prayed, fled and fell prostrate; some climbed up to the stylobate of the temple of Axes, others gathered stones. Someone, I believe, hid himself under the sea. Not in vain was my mother a queen; I cannot mix with the common people, though my modesty does so desire it. The fact is that I am unique.
What a man can pass unto others does not interest me; like the philosopher, I think nothing is communicated by the art of writing.
Annoying and trivial minutiae have no place in my spirit, a spirit which is receptive only to whatsoever is grand. Never have I retained the difference between one letter and another. A certain generous impatience has not consented that I should learn to read. Sometimes I deplore this, for the nights and days are long. Naturally, I am not without amusement. Like a ram on the charge, I run through the galleries of stone until dizzily I tumble to the ground. I conceal myself in the shadows of a cistern or in the corner of a corridor and pretend that I am being searched for.
There are rooftops from which I let myself fall until I bloody myself. At any time I can shut my eyes and pretend that I am asleep, breathing deeply. Sometimes I really do sleep, sometimes the colour of the day has changed by the time I open my eyes. But of the games I play, the one I prefer is pretending there is another Asterion.
I pretend that he has come to visit me and I show him around the house. With great reverence I tell him: Now we return to the previous intersection , or Now we head towards another courtyard , or I knew you would like this drain , or Now you will see a cistern that has filled with sand , or Now you will see how the cellar forks. Sometimes I err and we both laugh heartily. Not only these games have I imagined; I have also meditated on the house.
Each part of the house repeats many times, any particular place is another place. There is not one cistern, courtyard, drinking fountain, manger; there are fourteen infinite mangers, drinking fountains, courtyards, cisterns. The house is the size of the world; better said, it is the world.
Nevertheless, by dint of exhausting all the dusty galleries of grey stone and the courtyards with their cisterns, I have reached the street and I have seen the temple of Axes and the sea. This I did not understand until a night vision revealed to me that there are also fourteen infinite seas and temples. Everything exists many times over, fourteen times, but there are two things in the world that seem to exist only once; above, the intricate Sun; below, Asterion.
Perhaps I have created the stars and the Sun and the enormous house, but I do not remember anymore. Nine men enter the house every nine years so that I may deliver them from all evil.
I hear their footsteps or their voices in the depths of the galleries of stone and I run with joy in search of them. The ceremony lasts a few minutes. One after another, they fall to the ground without my having to bloody my hands. Where they fall, they remain, and the cadavers help to distinguish one gallery from another.
I know not who they are, but I do know that one of them prophesied, at the moment of his death, that someday my redeemer would come. Since then, the solitude does not pain me because I know that my redeemer lives, and in the end he will rise above the dust. If I could hear all the rumblings of the world, I would detect the sound of his footsteps. Let it be that he take me to a place with fewer galleries and fewer doors.
I wonder: what will my redeemer be like? Will he be a bull or a man? Will he be perhaps a bull with the face of a man?
Or will he be like me? Que entre el que quiera. Mienten los que declaran que en Egipto hay una parecida. Hasta mis detractores admiten que no hay un solo mueble en la casa. No en vano fue una reina mi madra; no puedo confundirme con el vulgo, aunque mi modestia lo quiera. Cierta impaciencia generosa no ha consentido que yo aprendiera a leer.
Claro que no me faltan distracciones. Me agazapo a la sombra de un aljibe o a la vuelta de un corredor y juego a que me buscan.
Hay azoteas desde las que me dejo caer, hasta ensangrentarme. Finjo que viene a visitarme y que yo le muestro la casa.
No hay un aljibe, un patio, un abrevadero, un pesebre; son catorce [son infinitos] los pesebres, abrevaderos, patios, aljibes.
La ceremonia dura pocos minutos. Uno tras otro caen sin que yo me ensangriente las manos. I love this story! And I am from Mexico, but here we also appreciate good authors…These is a wonderful story. Borges is the only writer with such capasity to write about metaphysical matters without sounding to academic, rather more like fantasist.
By the way, I am planning on calling my Baby, Asterion. Of course nothing tops the original stories, spanish. Yours is very good. I wish I could read it in Spanish. These passages are marvelous:. Even though I like the Spanish version better the English one is very good as well. I never get enough of this story and how great is written.
Only Borges could make a beast like the minotaur such an tender character. For the minotaur, though, 14 is as high a number needs to go before it becomes incomprehensible and takes on the feel of being limitless. Argentinian here too, and loving this translation! Anyway, good job here man! I just checked a published version of the original in Spanish and it has only parentheses. But there is a difference in tone. The personal pronoun now seems more formal compared to the more humdrum object pronoun, and I wanted Asterion to sound more like a snob that he seems to be by using the personal pronoun my instead of me.
The basic Greek words for numbers between 1 and 12 are fairly easy to say. But 13 is a bit more complicated and 14 is much more complicated. Well done on this translation. If I may say it without sounding condescending: This is an excellent translation!! As to why Asterion uses 14 to mean infinite, think about how he must count. He has ten fingers and four hooves to count upon.
Anyway assuming Borges has pictured him in his bull headed satyr form that is the common depiction in twentieth century art then he could count no higher than 14, especially as we know he can neither read or write. I think this gives us a clue as to how Borges saw him visually. Classical depictions show him with human feet, and some show a tail. Now though he is most often depicted with cloven hooves despite the early depictions.
The morning Sun was reflected in the sword of bronze. No trace of blood remained. Ya no quedaba ni un vestigio de sangre.
I competely agree! I just hope the translation does justice to the original. There are many typos in the Spanish version here. This story is one of my favorite.
In this short story it is the Minotaur — a self-conscious figure — who relates his own story and in some ways demystifies it. The first half of the twentieth century in Argentina was marked by debate on the extent to which a work of art should explicitly conform to ideological issues. Although this was lively debated in Europe also, the issue acquired a peculiar character in Latin America. Beyond the proliferation of nationalist movements all over the continent, there was a feeling of being in debt, since the times of independence, over the unresolved questions surrounding the identity of the new nations. Borges was contrary to nationalisms, and sarcastic regarding those attempts at a restoration of an Argentinean identity based in the old gaucho.
The House of Asterion
It was reprinted in the short-story collection El Aleph in The story takes the form of a monologue by Asterion. He begins by suggesting that certain defamatory claims—that he is arrogant, or misanthropic, or mad—are untrue. Asterion describes his house in detail: that it has no locked doors; that it has many corridors and rooms, pools and courtyards.
Labyrinthine Text, labyrinthine House, labyrinthine World. Jorge Luis Borges’ La Casa de Asterión.