Funes The Memorious

A brief review

In Funes the Memorious, written by Jorge Borges, one finds the story of Ireneo Funes, a nineteen year old boy, who after falling off his horse acquires the astonishing capability of remembering everything and perceiving the world like nobody before him could.

Ireneo’s mind is such, that grants him the ability to learn four languages without much effort, and exceptionally fast. Within its vast capacity and endless possibility, his mind also provides him with the skill to recall and comprehend objects and events precisely, including dreams, thoughts, as well as every hidden corner of our deceitful and complex reality. Albeit intelligent, Funes’ imaginative faculty is crippled and so is his physique. Equally, due to his incapability of platonic thought and his battle with insomnia, one has no choice but to wonder: are Funes’ newly acquired mental capabilities a gift, or a curse?

As the plot unfolds before the reader’s eyes, it reveals what is undoubtedly a window overlooking, not merely Funes’, but one’s own perception of the world too.

In the story Borges spends the hours until dawn with Funes, and listens attentively to the young man’s words without a hint of doubt, thus I shall not doubt him either. “That all those who knew him should write something about him seems to me a very felicitous idea” writes Borges. And write about him I shall for although fictional, Funes is also undoubtedly real. So real that when one reads his story, one will start to see him everywhere: in the unjustness of probability and the wasted miracles; in the irony that dominates one’s existence; in the unreachable and incomprehensible whole that humanity is part of; in man’s limited perception of concepts so vast that language and reason cannot describe; in the significance and grandeur of one’s imagination and the untiring efforts to appreciate everything, even the things that we can merely feel without any hope of communicating.

The limits, abstractions, and classifications of the world are internal as much as external; real but — like Funes — also fictional. Simply think of how irrelevant and fictitious these notions are on a Sunday morning when your mug embraces your coffee and the TV is on. But think also of how capable these ideas are of infiltrating your mind when a dark, rainy Monday eve finds you lost somewhere in the woods. Outside the man-made is — arguably — where these notions live, and where reality as we know it fails and collapses. Via experience, feelings and mysteries, these thoughts can creep through you unconscious, dominate your senses and cripple your mere existence to a point of no return. The commonly unfamiliar which has been defined and is ours to manipulate, is a beast which we have tamed. Still, the universally familiar which prevails over reason, is a beast which everyone should fear.

“I think that the reader should enrich what he is reading. He should misunderstand the text; he should change it into something else.” J. Borges