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The House of Asterion – Jorge Luis Borges

Asterion’s house (The House of Asterion) is a short fiction story by the famous and acclaimed writer of Argentine origin, Jorge Luis Borges, which was first published in 1947 in the daily newspaper Los anales de Buenos Aires and later in 1949 in El Aleph.

Like many of his works, the author sees a myth or popular story through a new vision, interpreting and giving new perspectives to the original events. Very much in the style of Edgar Alla Poe, the story opens with a monologue of a very extravagant character, and the ending tells something totally unexpected.


📖 Summary and Synopsis

For this story, the author combines a reflection of infinity with a myth typical of Greek mythology.

Asterión, the protagonist of the story, begins to make his monologue from his home, which is a labyrinth, reflecting that seeing his exit and seeing the way out, produce in him a great batch of questions that he associates with his home, which sees infinity. Take a close look at the sunset, the temple of axes and the sea.

However, when he admires the faces of the attitudes of people who live outside the labyrinth, he feels compelled to seclude himself in his home, where he spends his time playing different games. Throughout the long day he plays hide and seek, as he runs through the extensive galleries and passageways of the labyrinth; sometimes he plays pretending to fall asleep and sometimes he really falls asleep, but his favorite game is to pretend that another Asterion is coming to visit and they both walk through the maze.

In the end, several parts of the original myth are mentioned, such as the part where it is mentioned that every nine years, nine men go to be freed from evil, and then leave their bodies in different places, in different rooms , to distinguish them; after this Asterion begins to reflect on his own death, on his home and on the outside and his people. However, he still eagerly awaits his redeemer, his other.

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At the end of the story, Asterion understands that the sea and the temple that he had seen are infinite. The story ends with a line from Theseus: “Will you believe it, Ariadne? The Minotaur barely defended himself. ”, Which reveals that he was referring to Asterion, the Cretan Minotaur, did not defend himself when he died.

📒 Genre: Fiction short story

The story includes an important feature of postmodern fiction, which is the habit of drawing the reader’s consideration to their own method of interpretation while reading the narrative. This ability to enhance the reader’s interpretive understanding is hinted at by literary critics who illustrate this story as a journey from confusion to the assertion that Asterion, the narrator, and the central figure, is indeed the Minotaur of legend.

History allows this method of assurance by narrating the classic Cretan myth of the Minotaur, but from the Minotaur’s perspective. For most readers, the point of understanding about the narrator’s identity reaches the end of the story where Theseus comments to Ariadne that “the Minotaur barely defended himself.” Through a stylistic analysis of the narrative, it can be seen that the central figure is not only proved as a common archetype, but is exalted to a higher realm that can only be recognized by the reader.

📚 Characters

  • Asterion: He is the main and only person who has a point of view. Also narrates the story. Asterion is the name of the Cretan Minotaur, who lived in a labyrinth, which was built by Daedalus, making it feel like his home. In this story, we are presented with an Asterion with more human thought and reflection than in the original myth, giving us a new twist on the myth. He begins by saying, “I know you accuse me of pride, and perhaps misanthropy, and perhaps madness. Such accusations (which I will punish in due course) are laughable. ” His great imagination and skill for games is what helps him to endure loneliness. He considers death as a kind of liberation from the evils of the world, and he believes this for people who enter the labyrinth.
  • Theseus: This character is not directly in the story. The story is completely narrated from the point of view of the minotaur, except for the phrase at the end which is a quote in which Theseus speaks to Ariadne. This is, in Greek mythology, the hero who takes on the task of destroying the minotaur.
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📚 Analysis

Asterion’s obsessive faith in his “redeemer” is reinforced by the particular design of the text. In a desperately desolate world, essentially devoid of human interaction, it is not unexpected that Asterion vigorously seeks meaning in his macabre contact with people. Furthermore, it is not surprising that Asterion implicitly believes in a stranger who predicts the arrival of a “redeemer.”

Those words are possibly the only words spoken by a real person to Asterion. The linguistic choice implies that for Asterion, loneliness and loss of human life are not as significant as the advent of his “hero”. He expects “redemption,” in any form, counting days and years, and possibly even feeling disappointed when those audible steps are nothing more than youth sacrifices.

According to classical myth, Theseus enters the labyrinth with a multitude of sacrificial contributions and kills the Minotaur. In the midst of the Renaissance period, this achievement was extolled as a heroic victory of good over evil, however, in Borges’s narrative, the achievement seems trivial and empty, as Asterion embraces his ironic destiny without resistance. In the story, Asterion declares how pleased he is to pretend to be hunted, even rising from the rooftops.

It is conceivable that Asterion knows the horrible reality of his existence and undertakes self-destructive actions while awaiting the final redemption of death. He believes the reason for his imprisonment in the labyrinth is due to his royal lineage and how that prevents him from interacting with commoners. Could it be another of Asterion’s erroneous beliefs, or are you aware of its abominable nature and simply prefer not to face it?