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A daily record of what I'm thinking about what I'm reading

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Wednesday, February 3, 2016

A Borges story with a character and a little bit of plot ss well: Funes, the Memorius

One last Jorge Luis Borges story, at least for now - Funes, the Memorius, in a collection a few years later than the collection comprising the stories I've posted on over past few days, but still early - the mis-1940s and in my view a more mature work in some ways. The earilier stories, fantastic and strange as they may be, were each trick of the mind, a supposition turned into prose and carried to its extreme, a philosophical experiment. But Funes has a central character and even, to a small degree, a bit of a plot - not that all stories need to be conventional or even to have conventional elements, but the cold austerity of Borges's fiction can put readers off an Funes engages us a little more. The narrator of the story recalls crossing paths w/ Funes, while on a visit to some remote family lands in Uraguay, walking with his older brother who asks Funes the time and F answer mockingly. We learn that Funes is known locally as a savant who always knows the exact time. On a later visit, the narrator learns that F has been injured, thrown from a horse, and is in bed and partially paralyzed. F asks to borrow some Latin books (by well-composed letter) to learn the language, at which the narrator scoffs but sends some books. Needing to recover the books when he has to return home suddenly because of a family emergency, he visits F, where they engage in a night-long conversation: Funes, since the accident, is in a strange condition in which he can remember every incident and detail of his entire life, and even every detail (e.g., the # of leaves on a tree) - and he spends all his waking hours, usually in the dark, recollecting these memories that he perceives so powerfully. It seems like a kind of hell, but F seems to enjoy this state. So he has become a sort of god, and in another sense he is a paradigm for all writers: an Latin American Proust, in the cork-lined room recollecting his life, except the Funes doesn't write: he is the pure embodiment of an artist, without an art -- all perception and no creation, the opposite of a dementia, a kind of promentia. What artist hasn't envied that state - and feared it?

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