Y los sueños, sueños son…

My vanity and my nostalgia have set up an impossible scene.

It didn’t take me long to figure out the place was infinite. Endless corridors with endless shelves full of books stretched for hours on end. Thankfully, a lonely door interrupted the unlimited boredom of monotony.

As it is often the case in dreams, I didn’t question the bizarre spectacle in front of me: the Master, sitting in the armchair I’ve only seen in photographs, holding the cane I picture as brown, wearing the gray suit his acquaintances always talk about.

“Felipe! Come in.”

It didn’t surprise me that he knew my name.

“Come here.”

For whatever reason, I figured it was better to remain quiet. I sat in another armchair, in front of him.

“So. How’s everything at home?”

I couldn’t resist the urge to state the obvious.

“You’re speaking English.”


“But it doesn’t make any sense.”

“More often than not, dreams don’t care about such petty things.”

I took a look at the room. It was as numbingly eternal as the corridors I was lost in. 

“Tell me then. Is our homeland doing okay?”

“Argentina is once again sliding down the cliff of madness.”

“Remember Deor’s epistrophe: This too shall pass.”

The Master let the words get lost in the vastness of the room.

“It’s time we follow that old oneiric custom: let me show you something.”

We went into the corridor, and, as I instinctively tried to grab him by the arm to guide him, I realized not without fear that, in my dream, he wasn’t blind.

“Libraries and dreams, eh? Not unlike some of my stories.”

“May I ask you something, Master?”

“Of course. But don’t call me that. Fortunately, I’m no one’s master.” 

“Why did you write?”

“Like Heine, I wrote because I was miserable. Like Kafka, I didn’t dare to burn my work.”

I repeated the phrase in my head, vainly hoping to memorize it to steal it. The Master seemed distracted, lost in the infinite space of pages and words we were in.

“And why do you write?”

“Oh, I wouldn’t call it writing.”

“Why so?”

“I just… I don’t think my stories have any value, that’s all.”


I suddenly realized we were in the Master’s version of Paradise: an infinite library, maybe an unending extension of his father’s.

“Felipe, would you say that my books are valuable?”

“More than any other author’s.”

“And yet, I can’t think of something more trivial than my writing.”

“I’m sure any compliment would be useless.”

“Yes. I’ve already judged my books as undeserving of any praise.”

“And anyone who objects is wrong.”

“Or too nice. I’m sure my admirers just pity me… I hoped that, with my passing, my cult would disappear as well.”

“I’m afraid it only got worse.”

“It took me years to realize that, like every author, I just wrote the same story over and over.”

“At least you could write. I can’t even dare to start typing.”

“And why’s that?”

“Because I am, as you once wrote, a cowardly man.”

“I think you should be more stoic and less romantic. The virtues of suffering have been highly exaggerated.”

“It’s just that… I can’t think of anything more pleasing than reading, and I can’t imagine anything more painful than writing.”

“And yet you can only see yourself as a writer.”

“I know. It’s ridiculous.”

The Master kept a theatrical silence.

“Is it?”

“Writing is so useless and random, but it’s the only thing I can think of. I feel guilty when I’m doing anything else; I feel like I’m wasting my time.”

“Sometimes, one can only aspire to write some good pages, maybe a memorable phrase or a decent poem.”

“I’m afraid of condescending to become a professor or an academic. I figure that’s what Hell looks like.”

“You overestimate the importance of writers; I’d rather be a good reader. Besides, you should not scorn the pleasure of teaching: being a professor is just another way of letting people take an interest in what you think.”

“I just want to create worlds. Am I undeserving of that?”

“It’s not something you can deserve. You just need to write, that’s all.” I wondered how I could tell the Master, my Master, that it’s not that simple, but I desisted.

“What does a story need to have for readers to like it?”

“The author’s soul, nothing else.”

“And what if my soul isn’t that great?”

“I’d let the readers decide that.”

I asked myself if readers know anything at all.

“Will the dissatisfaction ever disappear?”

“I don’t think so; that’s the point.”

“And how do you know when you’ve done a good job, written a good story?”

“When you feel a slight amount of fulfillment. Of course, it seldom lasts more than a day or two.”

The picture kept getting darker.

“Writing will never make me happier, right?”

“I don’t know if it should. Felipe, you should do as one of my characters and allow yourself to live.”

I thought with envy that, like always, he was right.

“I never told this to anyone, but I keep comparing myself with all the great writers, and I can’t stop. I keep punishing myself for being twenty-three and only having written despicable trash.”

“Everyone is different; I only started to feel truly proud of my writing when I was in my late thirties. You should not care about other writers.”

“I’m tired of being myself. I’m sick of being Felipe Hendriksen.”

“As you already know, most of my bibliography dwells on that matter. There’s nothing you can do.”

“I want to be somebody else.”

“Who doesn’t?”

“I can’t stop worrying about things that didn’t even happen, and that probably won’t ever happen.”

“Anxiety is but boredom’s noblest name.”

“I can’t help but thinking that all my sorrows are false and shallow.”

“I think we all do. Life would be really hard if we didn’t.”

“I just need a reason to feel happy. If I could only satisfy at least one reader…” 

“But you don’t trust people when they tell you that they like your stories.”

The Master smirked as we kept walking through the vacuous multiplication of novels, anthologies, and encyclopedias.

“What’s the meaning of all this?”

“The center of every man’s existence is a dream, and this is yours.”

“And what should I do now?”

“Start writing, of course.”

“But I can’t. I really can’t. I feel ashamed every time I feel the need to write. I’m afraid of doing my best and not being good enough. I’m so terrified of failing at it that some days, after giving it some thought, I conclude that it’s best not to try at all. I hate myself so much, and I feel so insignificant… I might not be able to endure failure.”

“Remember that writing is a selfish labor. Failing is only secondary.”

“Besides, almost anything is more useful than writing. Isn’t it nobler to be a carpenter or a builder?”

The Master seemed surprised; I think he liked the idea, at least as a concept. “I guess…”

“Isn’t it more rewarding to come up with a theorem, conceive a paradox, or study metaphysics? Why become a writer? Why deign to concoct stories, which are no more than bagatelles?”

“We’re not as altruistic as we like to think. We only want to satisfy our needs. And your need, as was mine, is writing, even if it hurts like hell.”

“And what should I do when I can’t write anything?”

“Don’t force yourself. Writing is something too beautiful to become a mere obligation.” 

“Sometimes I think I don’t even like writing… or reading.”

“Maybe you think too much.”

The Master’s wisdom was starting to annoy me.

“I don’t know what to think anymore. I can’t trust my own judgment. Sometimes, things just seem meaningless and pointless…”

“I think you idealize literature way too much. Stories are just exercises of the imagination.” 

“I know, but…”

“Remember, it’s just our way of fighting tedium; it could’ve been anything.” After saying this, the Master walked down a new corridor I hadn’t seen until then. “Where are you going?”

“You won’t wake up anytime soon. We might as well do something until I disappear.” The Master had carried a book all this time, but I hadn’t noticed.

“What book is that? No, wait, let me guess: The World as Will and Representation!” 


I hesitated.

“Something by Stevenson? Conrad maybe? I know! Chesterton!”

The Master shook his head; the bastard was smiling like a child.

“I give up.”

“It’s yours.”


“A book you haven’t written yet, but you will soon.”

I started shaking; I thought I was going to pass out.

“And what are you doing with it?”

“Oh, we’re going to read it.”

It was then that I realized that dreams don’t make any sense. I considered that, if this was what my unconscious wanted me to experience, I might as well give up and try to enjoy it.

“You know, I also want to write comic-books.”

“Those still exist?”

“Of course.”

“I never got to read them. I was too old when the first superheroes appeared.” 

“They’re not unlike the epic tales you loved. Let me tell you all about it.” And we went on walking and talking until the night became day.

Felipe Rodolfo Hendriksen studies Literature at Pontificia Universidad Católica Argentina. He currently lives in Quilmes.