APHASIA|Borges’ Funes the Memorious on Language & Oblivion
Jorge Luis Borges’ short story Funes El Memorioso, or Funes the Memorious, tells of the titular character and his unsurpassed, inhuman capacity to remember everything that he has ever come across or experienced. He’s simply incapable of forgetting, and while that might seem like an enviable skill to have, Borges slowly reveals the special kind of personal hell that Funes has lived through over the course of the story.
As someone incapable of forgetting, Funes has created an internal world that’s infinitely enriching, but his psyche cannot bear the burden of remembering so much Forgetting, Borges underlines, is critical to making sense of intellectual input. Without this crucial faculty of forgetting, Funes is condemned to be overwhelmed with input at all times without getting any respite or the capacity to process what he has observed. It is fascinating to conceptualise oblivion as a blessing, because frustrating as it might be to not be able to remember a friend’s birthday or an important appointment, this capacity to forget is what enables the human brain to recover, recuperate, and filter the essential from the non-essential. Without this fundamental capacity for discernment, our minds would be in constant overdrive, distorting our perception of time, language, and existence, for each moment would feel too long because of how startlingly distinguishable it would be from the next, and language would be insufficient to capture the kind of specificities that such a memory would entail.