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Saturday, July 18, 2020

Jorge Luis Borges and the Philosophy of Memory | Essays - Merion West

Simone Redaelli, molecular biologist and a PhD candidate at the University of Ulm in Germany says, Nearly everyone, at least once in his life, has dreamt of remembering everything he has ever experienced—every single moment: “How exciting would it be, if I could fix in my mind every single detail of this landscape, every flower, every blade of grass?” 

Photo: cover Gyldendal.
One Argentine writer, however, cautioned against this fantasy. Jorge Luis Borges’ 1944 anthology Ficciones contains a short story, “Funes the Memorious,” that explores the exceptional mind of Ireneo Funes, a boy who remembers everything he experiences. Borges writes:

“For nineteen years, he said, he had lived like a person in a dream: he looked without seeing, heard without hearing, forgot everything—almost everything. On falling from the horse, he lost consciousness; when he recovered it, the present was almost intolerable it was so rich and bright; the same was true of the most ancient and most trivial memories.”

Funes, in Borges’ telling, is not only capable of remembering every experience, but he also recalls every detail of each experience. And he, thus, recollects the particulars of every moment he has spent living:...

So it seems clear that remembering every minor detail of life is hardly desirable, but, on the other hand, what happens if one were systematically to forget all of the details of the world?

This is a situation we experience every day. We wake up in the morning; we wash our face; and we have breakfast. We do not notice the placement of ornaments in the living room, the reflections of objects in the foyer mirror. We look out through the windows but fail to notice each branch and tree leaf in the garden. The manifold details of daily life are largely forgotten. Imagine, then, if one were to lose interest in reality precisely because of this realization. 

Source: Merion West