Jorge Borges: Short Stories

Order, Memory, and Anxiety in Borges' Fiction

The fundamental questions of how and why we read have an infinitude of answers, none of which entirely 'do the job,' simply because they bear too closely upon the automatic, (and therefore, to us, secret) processes of the mind; the act of reading is too closely related to the act of living in the world for us to comprehend definitively. There are few writers who understand and exploit this primal link more persistently than Jorge Luis Borges. One of the ways in which he forces us to examine the parallels between reading and existing (I use the word 'force' because it is not always a pleasant confrontation) is through the thematic use of memory.

I. Total Recall

"It is because I forget that I read."

-Roland Barthes, S/Z

One of the most masterful treatments of the memory theme is in "Funes the Memorious", the brilliantly, (and somewhat absurdly), touching story of a man who cannot live under the strain of his natural and inescapable ability to remember everything perfectly.

The story begins with the words "I recall", and immediately we are plunged into the realm of memory-we understand that what we are about to read is a semblance of a reminiscence. Jon Stewart calls attention to the importance of the repetition of this verb in...

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