Understanding Borges: Funes The Memorious

In this day and age, insomnia is a common affliction. Though it has serious consequences for our body and mental health, we are quick to brush it off as an opportunity to catch up with a book or binge on Netflix without having to compromise with other household members. But I remember being insomniac as a kid. It wasn’t fun. I used to lay in bed in the dark, just trying to control the flood of crazy thoughts running through my mind. Hearing all sort of strange sounds and seeing monsters where there were only shadows.

Funes, like Borges himself, has insomnia. But rather than having an acute sense of hearing and perception as a result of insomnia, it is his acute perception that drives him not to sleep. He doesn’t want to miss a thing. See, Funes has a gift. He can remember everything. EVERYTHING just by seeing it once. Or even thinking it once. He has mastered Latin by reading a dictionary. He was a perceptive teen, but the accident exacerbated it. A young (but fictitious) Borges visits him and thus, this story about insomnia unfolds. Like all stories written by Borges, this story is about much more than insomnia or supernatural powers.

John Stewart (most likely NOT the guy from the Daily Show) wrote an interesting scholarly article on it titled “Borges Refutation of Nominalism in Funes El Memorioso” for Variaciones Borges 2/96. Interested? Click here.

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