Language & Composition

Mr. Eure | Brewster High School

Funes the Memorious

The next leg of this summer assignment presents us with “Funes the Memorious,” a short fictional narrative by Jorge Luis Borges. Narratives are all around us; in many ways, they are our most fundamental way of creating meaning—and we are collectively desperate to find meaning in everything from celebrity divorces to tragic shootings. The latter link offers this explanation for our narrative fixation: “Narrative often feels like all we’ve got, because it gives us the illusion of resolution. Stories, after all, have endings. The entrenched reality… does not.”

When you are given fictional narratives in a course like ours, the task is not to dissect them for authorial choice. You are looking for a story’s ramiform resonance: First, how it resonates with you; second, how it resonates with your peers, who will read the same story with you; finally, how it seems to resonate within our shared culture. If you are moved by the construction of the narrative or the prose itself, that’s wonderful, and it’s a kind of resonance. But you are old enough and ostensibly well-read enough to stop “tearing the petals off and grinding them up and running the goo through a spectrometer to explain why a rose smells so pretty,” to use David Foster Wallace’s metaphor for literary analysis.

One alternative approach to a story like “Funes” (and you should Google around for other copies of the text, if you can; that one seems to have a type or two in it): Mimic the way you discuss narratives when school isn’t involved. When you get into a fight with a friend over whether The Dark Knight is a better film than The Dark Knight Rises, you have to use the right terminology to make your case; you reference cinematography, acting, characterization, conflicts, antagonists, resolutions, and so on, and you do that because that’s how we have to judge storytelling. But you don’t write a five-paragraph, thesis-driven essay to explain what the story means, and there is no Teacher’s Guide for The Dark Knight trilogy—at least, not yet—to tell you if you’re right or wrong. You rely on your thoughtful interpretation and your ability to build on the interpretations of others.

Another, somewhat simpler approach to leaving comments on this post: Choose a line that seems to speak to you, and try to convey that resonance to your peers. If you need further prompting, start with this one: “We all live by leaving behind.”

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104 responses to “Funes the Memorious

  1. Joey Blasco September 4, 2012 at 6:03 pm

    After re-reading “Funes the Memorious” several times, it occurred to me that Funes’s accident which left him crippled also helped unlock his talent to remember, similar to AJ but presented in a more extreme way. While AJ spoke of remembering her past mistakes haunting her in “Remember This,” Funes not only vividly and accurately remembered nearly his whole childhood; he also developed the skill to deeply analyze and categorize all of his memories and anything within them to the point of Borges himself fearing of making the wrong gesture towards Funes.

    What also intrigued me was that the accident didn’t appear to bother Funes at all, and Borges even states that Funes thought his own accident helped him. I expected Funes to be somewhat traumatized by his accident, yet it seems that he is grateful for it.

    To add, it seems like Funes’s new ability does not stop, even for himself to think, as he spends his time recollecting his memories and analyzing them, possibly resulting in Funes to be forever stuck in those memories. Unlike Funes, we should pick and choose what memories to save for our own reasons.

    • Sara Lavelle September 4, 2012 at 10:13 pm

      I agree, the in “Funes the Memorious” it twisted what might be someone’s most traumatizing moment in their life and made it into a somewhat positive advantage. As if the accident gave him something greater. It basically displays that the worst events in your life can create something more powerful. Although being unable to walk seems like such a big deal and would be horrible to lose he claims it was only a small price to pay.

    • Will Kelmenson September 4, 2012 at 11:26 pm

      I’m not completely clear on the plot of this story, but I believe that Funes had his gift of an incredible memory all along. However, before the accident, he didn’t think anything of it, and didn’t appreciate life in general. After the accident, having nothing to do but lie in bed, Funes learned that he could still be grateful for life because of his detailed memory. Funes could look at the details of his life very easily, and therefore appreciate them.

  2. Avery Pan September 4, 2012 at 7:29 pm

    After reading this narrative more times than I care to admit to, I was able to look at the very first line with a particular fondness, because I finally comprehended why Borges wrote, “I scarcely have the right to use this ghostly verb; only one man on earth deserved the right, and he is dead.” Referring to his use of the phrase, “I remember,” this finally made sense to me when I realized that no one is able to truly recall details and memories the way Funes did. Like we’ve all agreed, much of society is guilty of taking cursory glances at everything life has had to offer, and observing and taking in the beauty of nature as well as the small components of our limited memories more deeply will grant us a newfound sense of appreciation for all aspects of life. I admired the amount of respect Borges proved to have for Funes, stressing how unique, wise, and extraordinary he became after his accident. The quote “immobility was a small price to pay” really resonated with me because it proved that although Funes was now handicapped, he was still able to appreciate what his accident had done to him in seeing that it made him see more clearly and be grateful for all the little things.
    While Funes and AJ are alike in that they both possess exceedingly acute memories, their viewpoints clash with one another drastically. Funes regards his gift affectionately and graciously, going above and beyond by using it to invent a new system of enumeration, whereas AJ refuses to see her advancement in memory only as a curse.

  3. Jack Kelly September 4, 2012 at 8:34 pm

    “Funes the Memorious” brought a fairly cliche phrase into my mind, “you have to stop and smell the flowers every once in a while”. I think Borges was trying to show that we need to slow down and take it in because life is too short and you have to make the most and enjoy it before your time is up and make vivid images and mental pictures in your brain to remember, just like those in the passage. The passage takes a couple of looks to completly understand some different aspects of it, like how Funes can recall very vivid images in his life yet claims to be “blind” and “deaf”. I think what he means by that is that we all are metaphorically blind and deaf to the deeper meaning of life on Earth and that is why we have to recongnize what is in front of us.

  4. Briana Beach September 4, 2012 at 8:44 pm

    “Funes, the Memorious” registered with me in various ways. Funes, prior to his accident lived in a way relatable to most of ours. “…he looked without seeing, heard without hearing, forgot everything- almost everything.” As days go by, we don’t pay attention to the details or the grander beauty of barely anything. Every event is just another occurrence and we as humans, do not think twice about it. However, after the accident, Funes was left with the inability to move with an infallible perception and memory. He was incapable of general ideas and saw everything in intense detail. “The truth is that we all live by leaving behind;..” Day by day, we place things behind us, sometimes reviewing them in our head and sometimes forgetting about what happened altogether. In Funes’ case, he put together his whole childhood piece by piece. I believe the point of this story is to teach people to live in the moment, and take the time to appreciate and pay attention to the smaller things or details in life rather then letting it pass us by.

  5. Joseph Serrecchia September 4, 2012 at 9:05 pm

    “Funes the Memorious” much like everyone else this is something that all people in our generation suffer from. We take everything that we deem “normal” in life for granted. We go by day by day doing the same things, being unappreciative of the little things in life. The worst part is that we all are aware of this. We all know that we take things for granted, I myself know i do the same thing. It’s to bad that tragic things such as Fune’s accident give us a “wake up call” and realize that life doesn’t last forever. That we have to appreciate everything that goes on. Nothing in life is a given. Also our memories become mixed up with what was real and what was not. When you don’t pay attention to the little things, great memories can fade into nothing. This also relates to bad memories. The “could’ve, should’ve, would’ves” in life. Regretting something isnt going to change the past. Appreciate what you have and don’t dwell on what you don’t. Also people just breeze through life. It goes by alot quicker than we all think. For instance I’m a Junior in high School already, the last few years have gone by faster than any others. You have to take your time in life, after all you only get one shot to do things the right way and not looking back on something that you can control and regretting it.

  6. Ariana Pagnotta September 4, 2012 at 9:15 pm

    In “Funes the Memorious”, Borges shows us that we shouldn’t take life for granted. We all walk around not truly appreciating what we have. Borges was no exception. Unfortunately for him, he learned this after a crippling accident. After this, he went through life acknowledging even the smallest things in life. I believe he sets out to show us you shouldn’t take anything in life for granted, because anything could happen and drastically change your life.

  7. Catherine Caputo September 4, 2012 at 9:22 pm

    After going back and re-examining this story a little more, I read; “I suspect, nevertheless, that he was not very capable of thought. To think is to forget a difference, to generalize, to abstract.” With that, I realized why Funes scared the main character so much, why he scared me. It’s almost as if he’s stuck in limbo of a time frame like EP was, but with vivid and clear details like AJ. He could spend forever reliving every moment of his life, almost as if watching a movie, and recording more events, but never actually living them. When I use the word living, I mean he’ll experience them, but only what’s shown, not being capable of thought means not being able to go beyond just seeing something, being an observer separate from the rest of the world.

  8. Brian Donnelly September 4, 2012 at 10:10 pm

    After re-reading this extremely confusing article it started to make sense, I did exactly what it was talking about, I didn’t get the most detail i could have the first time, and i feel like this and To Keep A Notebook could go hand and hand, if i wrote down what was happening in this article i probably wouldn’t have had to re-read many times. And the saying you don’t know what you have until its gone, its the same with not realizing all the detail until its to late with Borges and his Horse accident.

  9. Sara Lavelle September 4, 2012 at 10:24 pm

    After constant reading I still feel a bit off on the plot. However, I see in Funes something you’d never want to see in you at the start of the story. Who wants to be that person that learns things the hard way like Funes? It took for him to be unable to walk for him to appreciate his surroundings. He finally learns about this amazing gift he has. He just went along life, uneventful, and uninspiring like so many of us do. “Funes saw all the shoots, clusters, and grapes of the vine.” Is this a gift? Or just true love to the simplest things he never cared to pay attention to? I believe it was a gift he always had but never cared to look into before.

  10. Will Kelmenson September 4, 2012 at 11:17 pm

    I can think of two purposes of this story. The first is to look at life from the perspective of someone like Funes, who remembers literally everything they ever come across in any way. An interesting point is made when Funes attempts to classify all single things in their own categories. We humans already have our own system of classifying things. We have general terms and categories, because if it were any other way, then it would be too much to remember. This is not the case for someone like Funes. Therefore he thinks it would make more sense to give every single “thing” its own name. “Thing” refers to not just an object, but everything else as well. For example, in the story, funes thinks that a dog from different angles should have its own name. This makes for an infinite number of classifications. This whole idea is an interesting concept because if all humans had perfect memories, the world might be a very different place. This story also seems to include a message. Funes had always gone about his life, taking it all for granted without slowing down to pay attention. When funes became crippled, he realized that it was important to take everything in and pay attention to details. Although we may not be able to retain as much information as Funes, it is still important to not take life for granted.