Ireneo Funes was a young Uruguayan who suffered a head injury after
being thrown by a horse. He considered himself "blind, deaf,
addle-brained and absent minded" - as all humans are ( his words)
until the time of the accident. In fact the damage caused to his
brain resulted in his perception of his surroundings being greatly
enhanced, so much that he could bearly tolerate the effects. He could
remember everything from his past, no matter how small and seemed to
consider the paralysis also caused by the accident as unimportant
and a small price to pay for his infallible memory. The detail with
which he noticed and remembered each word, sound, smell, sight or
touch meant his world was a far more complex place than "normal"
people inhabit. For instance, a fire burning would be remembered for
each ember, ash and flame, he described his memory as "a garbage
heap", every facet of every object was committed to memory. He could
see the minute changes which occured over time, Borges surmises that
Funes' least important memories were more detailed and vivid than our
perception of physical pain or pleasure.
In 1886 Funes came up with his own numbering system, this was because
he saw the standard repetitive use of symbols we call numbers wholly
inadequate, his system gave a name to each number, so for instance
instead of saying 7,014 (or seven thousand and fourteen) he called
the number "The Railroad", similarly each number was named, Borges
attempted to explain that a numbering system means more than the
words used to describe it but Funes did not or could not accept this.
But the memory didn't stop at objects, instances or words,
Funes remembered every time he had perceived or imagined anything, so
that even remembering the day before would take as long as the day
itself, he attempted to classify his thoughts but gave up when he
realised it was a task without end. The activity in his brain made it
difficult for him to sleep, he would imagine himself at the bottom of
a river the current rocking him to sleep.
Borges ends by saying he felt Funes incapable of thought, too
consumed with details to be able to generalise, he also tells that at
their meeting when the conversations took place, Funes was only
nineteen years old, he died in 1889.
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