I'm trying to track down a story by Stanislaw Lem for my father. He thought it was titled "Citizen O", but there appears to be no such story. It's about a world in which the more distinguished you are, the shorter is your name. That's all I know, unfortunately.

  • No such story appears on the Internet Scifi database; isfdb.org/cgi-bin/se.cgi?arg=citizen&type=Fiction+Titles
    – Valorum
    Jun 8, 2016 at 13:44
  • Citizen O was a Russian serial killer: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anatoly_Onoprienko
    – TGnat
    Jun 8, 2016 at 14:22
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    There's a story in which two officials compete for the favor of the heir to the throne by making themselves smaller and smaller; perhaps your father is thinking about that one?
    – Kreiri
    Jun 8, 2016 at 14:50
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    In case of misremembering: In the 1965 novel 'Epp' by Axel Jensen, the opposite is the case. You earn extra letters to your name.
    – Abulafia
    Jun 8, 2016 at 19:25
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    In The Space Merchants an important part of the story turns on the fact that the less important you are, the longer your Social Security Number (tattoed on your arm) is.
    – Spencer
    Jun 9, 2016 at 1:57

1 Answer 1


This is from Lem's 'The Star Diaries, right at the beginning of the Thirteenth Voyage. It was "Master Oh", not "Citizen O".

[...] one of the most distinguished individuals in our Universe, Master Oh. [...] Children born on Fatamiasma recieve an enormous number of titles and distinctions as well as a name that is, by our standards, inordinately long.

The day Master Oh came into the world he was called Hridipidagnittusuoayomojorfnagrolliskipwikabeccopyxlbepurz. And duly dubbed Golden Buttress of Being, Doctor of Quintessential Benignity, Most Possibilistive Universatilitude, etc, etc. From year to year, as he studied and matured, the titles and syllables of his name were one by one removed, and since he gave evidence of uncommon abilities, by the thirty-third year of his life he was relieved of his last distinction, and two years later carried no title whatever, while his name was designated in the Fatamiasman alphabet by a single and - morover - voiceless letter, signifying "celestial aspirate" - this is a kind of stifled gasp which one gives from a surfeit of awe and rapture.

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    Oh my! Thank you so much! This has been driving him mad, and will be a really nice surprise for his 70th birthday.
    – Tal
    Jun 9, 2016 at 17:38
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    @Tal - You can accept the answer if you wish by clicking the checkmark, since it is correct.
    – Adamant
    Jun 9, 2016 at 19:39

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