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Old 06-17-2005   #1
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Memory in Borges: Funes and The Zahir

The reading of two Borges stories that deal with odd alterations of memory set me thinking about our limitations to even conceive some weird mind states, like the neurological rarities portrayed by Oliver Sacks in his books.
“The Zahir” is about looking at an object (anything can be a Zahir) and not being able to forget it, until it occupies your whole mental space and reduce the victim to a helpless state. It is an unnerving story because the reader can empathize with the man afflicted by the Zahir and imagine what it would be to have an image (either horrific or just mundane) gradually engulfing any other memory and perception.
“Funes the memorious” has the opposite condition: his memory keeps everything he has ever looked at, from the time of an accident. What it makes every second of a crack on the wall different from the second before and the second after of the same crack. It is a good story, with a superb atmosphere, but it fails where “The Zahir” succeed: I cannot quite conceive the mental state resulting of not forgetting anything at all. So reading this story is a much less personal affair. But maybe it is just me: other people can figure out what is like to be Funes, and I am just hopelessly forgetful.

"...what pleasures and improvements do such deny themselves who scorn and avoid all opportunity of intercourse with souls separate and the spirits, glad and sorrowful, which inhabit the unseen world!"
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Old 06-21-2005   #2
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Re: Memory in Borges: Funes and The Zahir

Funes reminds me of a Karl Edward Wagner story called Lacunae. The idea is that lacunae prevent us from going insane.

I'm sure I've managed to trivialize both.

Many apologies,

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Old 06-22-2005   #3
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Re: Memory in Borges: Funes and The Zahir

Quote Originally Posted by waffles";p=&quot View Post
Funes reminds me of a Karl Edward Wagner story called Lacunae. The idea is that lacunae prevent us from going insane.

I'm sure I've managed to trivialize both.

Many apologies,

Waff's
Gods or organs, these "lacunae"? Name rings a bell.... Karl Edward Wagner. Very, very nice 8). His last written story was grim, humourous, Chambers-esque genius.
P.S. Haven't read much Borges. Really like what I've read, though. Wish I had Labyrinths, I believe the collection's name is....

"And into his dreams he fell...and forever."
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Old 06-24-2005   #4
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Re: Memory in Borges: Funes and The Zahir

I can conceive, or at least imagine, the state of Funes... don’t ask me how, I know I just can. I can also conceive a similar mind state like the one of “El Zahir”. I have experienced moment on which a single idea fixes inside my head and there is no way to unfix it... it lasts just a few seconds, or a few minutes, but it is bothersome. It could be anything, a song (the typical horrid song that one doesn’t like but fixes on the mind anyway) a name, anything.

When it happens with names, or words, it actually becomes a bit interesting, since the word or name in question looses al meaningfulness. Try it one day. Try it with your name, for example... after a time, it is just a conglomeration of letters with no meaning at all, it even looses any personal meaning. “ I am (insert your name here)” no longer has any meaning, since your name is nothing and there is no way a random accommodation of letters could mean anything to describe you and thus our notion of name becomes obsolete.

It lasts for a few seconds, though. But it’s interesting nonetheless.

Anyway, people die...
-Current 93


I am simply an accident. Why take it all so seriously?
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Old 06-25-2005   #5
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Re: Memory in Borges: Funes and The Zahir

Sounds like you are describing meditation using a mantra, which is certainly a way to get into an altered mental state. Your word (or phrase or whatever) is the mantra that you repeat in your mind and push all other thoughts out. As you ponder the meaning/significance of your mantra, it eventually becomes meaningless as you describe. Then you have reached the goal, which is to clear your mind of all thoughts. Once you get the hang of it, it can last for as long or short as you like. Its usually paired with relaxing your entire body. You can even end up having what seem to be out of body experiences with enough practice.

As for Funes, I read that story as alluding to the concept that the world/universe is so complex that the only way to represent it accurately is with itself (or something just as complex). Thus our memory cannot possibly contain all the details of our experience or we would end up like Funes, being able to remember everything yet not being able to synthesize anything; almost like creativity/ingenuity/human perspective are the result of an imperfect reflection and synthesis of memory and perception.
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