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La casa de Asterión, by Jorge Luis Borges


Theseus and the Minotaur, mosaic



In 1949, the Argentinian short-story writer and poet Jorge Luis Borges wrote a short story, La casa de Asterión or The House of Asterión, which revisited the Greek myth of the Minotaur. It is the story of Asterión, who never leaves the house. However, it is not, as many people think, because he is locked inside. That is not the case. The doors are never locked, and they don't even have any locks on them! He simply does not leave the house because the outside world gives him a bad feeling. He does not like to come across other people. He does not believe in the power of communication and writing, as he never even learned how to read and write. All he does all his days, is stay inside his gigantic mansion and play games. His games include jumping off very high places and falling, resulting in bloody crashes to the floor. He hides away, pretending he is being followed by someone inside the house. He runs through the stone galleries until he feels dizzy and faints. His favorite game, though, is the one with the “other Asterión.” He imagines that the “other Asterión” comes in to visit him and he takes him around the house, showing off the rooms where he lays every day and night. Other than these games, he also meditates in every room and in every corner of the house. He meditates in the corridors, bedrooms, pool, mangers, and sometimes he even falls asleep and when he wakes up the sky has a different color than when he fell asleep. As Asterión puts it, "The house is the same size as the world; or rather it is the world."


The only contact between him and the outside world takes place once every nine years, when nine men come into his house for Asterión to deliver them from evil. The ceremony lasts only a few minutes and results in all nine men dropping on the floor one after the other. Asterión always leaves them lying there so that he can recognize the different hallways and galleries. He does not know who they are or where they come from, but one of them once prophesied, right before dying, that someday Asterión’s redeemer would come. Since he knows that his redeemer is out there somewhere looking for him, Asterión does not hate loneliness. So, once his redeemer finally comes, Asterión does not fight him, hoping that he will finally bring him to a better place. When he walks out of the labyrinth, Theseus tells everything to Ariadne. He tells her how "The Minotaur scarcely defended himself."


Jorge Luis Borges's story brings the reader to empathize with the Minotaur, who is shown as someone who has been left out of society due to his differences, resulting in a very lonely being. The Italian singer-songwriter group Baustelle has written a song to celebrate Borges's Minotaur and diversity, which you can listen here.