O., the narrator and principal character in a series of events that are not told chronologically but are instead presented as the free play of his memory, which acts as a kind of “mobile,” circling and changing position around a few fixed points, the most important events of his life. O.’s profession is never stated, but he is a classical scholar of sorts, and he is fascinated by the Battle of Pharsalus, about which he read as a schoolboy and the exact location of which, as an adult, he has tried to find in the north of Greece. His translations of Caesar, however, are awkward, and his interest in Roman history is limited to this battle and to Caesar’s profile on the coins and bills of the countries he visits on a train trip through Europe. O. is not a writer, but he is interested in the multiple meanings of words. Lists of Latin words, with their French meanings, are scattered throughout the narrative. the visual possibilities of letters fascinate him—the A in the word pantalon in an advertisement for a clothing store becomes a pair of pants. O. is not an artist, although he is writing an essay on a painting in a German museum and greatly admires battle paintings by Nicolas Poussin, Piero Della Francesca, and Paolo Uccello. Only briefly is O. seen in an office, which is probably in the old home on the family estate in southern France. He counts out small piles of money in it, just as Uncle Charles...
(The entire section is 486 words.)