Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

From the very beginning of the story, the memories of the narrator and Funes are contrasted in a cleverly understated way. The narrator is using his memory of the past to write the memoir, but unlike Funes, he can only approximate forgotten details: no exact dates here—“sometime in March or February of the year ’84.” This was the date of their first meeting. Unlike the narrator, however, when Funes writes to borrow the Latin book, he refers to their encounter “on the seventh day of February of the year ’84.” A little later in the story, just before he describes the final conversation with Funes, the narrator apologizes for what is to follow: He says that he will not attempt to reproduce the exact words because almost fifty years have passed. Although he regards his summary as “remote and weak,” he can only hope the readers can imagine the original sentences themselves.

Borges followed very faithfully Edgar Allan Poe’s maxim that a short story must aim at a single effect, and his stories frequently build slowly to a revelation at the climax that forces the reader to reassess all that has occurred to that point. “Funes, the Memorious” is a fine example of that technique. The whole story leads to the rising of the sun and the sight of Funes’s ancient face. The story also illustrates that when the climax has been adequately prepared for, the details of the revelation can speak for themselves: The narrator draws no conclusion about this astonishingly old face on a nineteen-year-old; readers can draw their own conclusions about the burden of being unable to forget.