Tag Archives: Hope

The House of O

26 Oct


Apologies to Jorge Luis Borges

(Borges, Jorge Luis. 1964. The house of Asteron. In Labyrinths: Selected Stories and Other Writings, ed. Donald A. Yates and James E. Irby, London: Penguin. pp. 170-172)


And the queen gave birth to a child who was called “O”.

Apollodorus Bibliotecha III, I

I know you will accuse me of arrogance, and perhaps misanthropy, and perhaps of madness.

Such accusations, for which I shall exact punishment in due time, are derisory.

It is true that I never leave my idealism, but it is also true that its lies, whose numbers are fourteen (Footnote 1), are offered day and night to men and to women as well. Anyone may listen.

You will hear only pomp and gallant court formality; however, you will find no quiet and solitude. And you will also find an idealism like no other on the face of this earth.

There are those who declare there is a similar one in Europe, but they lie.

Even my detractors admit there is not one single piece of truth in the house. Another ridiculous falsehood has it that I, O, am a prisoner of my idealism. Shall I repeat that there are pens, shall I add that there are phones?

Besides, one afternoon I did step into reality. I returned before nightfall. I did so because of the fear that the faces of the common people inspired in me. These faces are as discolored and thin as the bones of one’s finger.

They challenge my idealism.

The sun had already set, but the helpless crying of a child and the rude supplications of the faithful told me I had been recognized. The people prayed, fled, prostrated themselves; some climbed onto the minaret of the mosques, others gathered stones. One of them, I believe, hid himself beneath the sea.

Not for nothing was my mother a queen; I cannot be confused with the populace, though my petulance might so desire. The fact is that that I am unique. I am not interested in what one man may transmit to other men.

Like the philosopher I think that nothing is communicable by the art of writing; only rhetoric will suffice.

Bothersome and trivial details have no place in my spirit, which is prepared for all that is vast and grand.

I have never retained the difference between one lie and another. A certain generous impatience has not permitted that I learn to be honest. Sometimes I deplore this, for the nights and days are long.


Of course, I am not without distractions. Like the ram about to charge, I run through many speeches until I fall dizzy to the floor. I crouch in the shadow of Marx, or around a corner, or pretend I am being followed by the masses. There are policy errors from which I let myself fall until I am bloody. At any time I can pretend to be asleep, with my eyes closed and my breathing heavy.

Sometimes I really sleep; sometimes the reality of the world has changed when I open my eyes.

But of all the games, I prefer the one about the other O. I pretend that he comes to visit me and that I show him my house. With great deference I say to him “Now we shall never return to Iraq” or “Now we shall come out with another sanction” Or “I knew you would wait until my re-election” or “Now you will see a land that is filled with energy” or “You will soon see how the web of deceit branches out”.

Sometimes I make a mistake and the two of us laugh heartily.


Not only have I imagined these games, I have also meditated on the House of Representatives. All parties of the house are repeated many times, one party is like another party. There is no one party, court, pork trough, or leader; the leaders, pork troughs, courts, reflecting pools are fourteen (Footnote 1) in number. The house is the same size as the nation; or rather it is the nation. However, by dint of exhausting the courts with decrees, and ensured the dusty gray galleries of the incumbents I have reached the street and seen the temple of the scimitars and the sand.

I did not understand this until a night vision revealed to me that the sands and mosques are also fourteen (Footnote 1) in number. Everything is repeated many times, fourteen times (Footnote 1) , but two things in the world seem to be repeated only once: now the house of O, tomorrow the world.

Perhaps I have created the stars and the sun and this enormous house, but I no longer remember.


Every fourteen (Footnote 1) years nine men enter the house so that I may deliver them from evil. I hear their steps or their voices in the depths of the stone galleries and I run joyfully to find them. The ceremony lasts a few minutes. They fall one after another without my having to bloody my hands. They remain where they fell and their bodies help distinguish one gallery from another.

I do not know who they are, but I know that one of them prophesied, at the moment of his death, that someday my redeemer would come. Since then my loneliness does not pain me, because I know my redeemer lives and he will finally rise above the dust.

If my ear could capture all the sounds of the nation, I should hear his steps. I hope he will take me to a place with fewer galleries, fewer lies. What will my redeemer be like? I ask myself. Will he be a bull or a man? Will he perhaps be a bull with the face of a man?


Or will he be magnificent; like me?


The morning sun reverberated from the republic’s sword. There was no longer even a vestige of blood. “Would you believe it, Ariadne?” said Theseus “The O scarcely defended himself.”

 Footnote 1: The original says fourteen, but there is ample reason to infer that, as used by O, this numeral stands for infinite.


Ace of Spades