Page three of the Arts and Letters… June 7, 1942
“Funes the Memorious” and Other Cases of Extraordinary Memory [thereader.mitpress.mit.edu]
>’In “Funes the Memorious,” a story of barely 12 pages that was eventually published as part of “Ficciones” (1944), Borges again plays with the infinite in a context no less fascinating: the vast labyrinths of memory and the consequences of having an unlimited capacity to remember.’
>’Funes is first mentioned in an obituary of James Joyce, “A Fragment on Joyce,” published in 1941 in the magazine Sur. There, with some measure of sarcasm, Borges says that to read straight through a “monster” like Joyce’s “Ulysses” — a 400,000-word reconstruction of a single day in Dublin — requires another monster able to remember an infinite number of details. The strange thing about the obituary is that Borges barely refers to Joyce or his work and instead describes Ireneo Funes, the main character of the story he was writing at the time.’
>’Given their historical significance, Pliny’s stories are of undeniable value. It is, nonetheless, impossible to judge their veracity, and in fact the characters described in the “Naturalis historia” seem more legendary than real (perhaps arousing Borges’s curiosity even more). To a large extent this is due to the fact that many of Pliny’s descriptions are based on word-of-mouth information, inevitably altered in the telling. For example, when he describes cases of astonishing eyesight in chapter 21 of book VII, Pliny writes that Homer’s “Iliad” was written in such small script that the complete manuscript could fit in a nutshell; he also mentions a man called Strabo, who could recognize objects 135 miles away and who, during the Punic Wars, could sight and even count the enemy ships docked in Carthage from a promontory in Sicily.’
Mais comment j’ai encore atterri là-dessus ?
(l’amplitude de l’oubli)
(Une réalité infatigable / un monde surchargé de détails)