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The Lonely Voice: ‘Funes the Memorious’ & ‘The South’ by Jorge Luis Borges

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Jorge Luis Borges

Jorge Luis Borges is one of the most anthologized authors in the world. In his writing, he was often concerned with the ways Argentine writers related to the world. In one famous lecture, “The Argentine Writer and Tradition,” he is known to have famously discounted the idea that Argentine literature should be confined to “Argentine traits and Argentine local color.” He believed that the writer is always in conversation with all spaces, always.

He was, of course, a giant in Latin American letters and wrote numerous books of poetry, fiction, and essays. He was also a prodigious translator of authors such as Kipling, Woolf, Faulkner, and Poe.

His story “Funes, the Memorious” was first published in La Nación in June of 1942. In 1944 it appeared in the anthology Ficciones. The first English translation of the story appeared in 1954 in Avon Modern Writing #2.

Since then, the story remains popular and beloved. It’s the story of Ireneo Funes who falls off his horse, suffers a grievous head injury, and somehow acquires a dubious gift of remembering everything—absolutely everything.

The fall also causes Funes to be paralyzed and bed ridden. From that vantage point, however, he still seems to be exposed to the world—universes—within his own mind. His memories bloom kaleidoscopically with layers and permutations of associations. These come unbidden and he can do nothing to stop, not just the memory of it, but a super-sensory recollection of everything—not just a day—but the weather, the cloud formations on that day, the temperature, and everything that occurred every single second of that day. It’s uncanny and strange. However, while everyone around him merely accepts Funes and his oddness and his memories, the narrator of the story meets Funes only three brief times—and each meeting is confounding—but also compelling, unforgettable.

On this episode of The Lonely Voice podcast, hosts Yvette Benavides and Peter Orner welcome guest Ricardo Siri—who is known professionally as Liniers.

Jorge Luis Borges in a light moment poses with a breadbasket on his head.
From the collection of Norman Thomas di Giovanni
Jorge Luis Borges in a light moment poses with a breadbasket on his head.

The Argentine cartoonist whose work has been featured on the cover of The New Yorker has had a daily cartoon strip, Macanudo, featured in the Argentine newspaper La Nación for over 20 years and in U.S. newspapers since 2018.

Fantagraphics publishes Liners’ comic strip in new English-language collections.

While his legions of fans might know that Liniers has also collaborated musically—with Gustavo Santaolalla, Jorge Drexler, and Kevin Johansen, among others (and his tributes to the late Gabo Ferro in 2020 are unforgettable) he’s also quite the reader of literary fiction—and Jorge Luis Borges is an author who captured his imagination from a very young age.

Ricardo Siri (Liniers)
By Prensa TV Pública from Buenos Aires, Argentina
Ricardo Siri (Liniers)

This is a special episode of The Lonely Voice as Liniers joins Peter Orner and Yvette Benavides in an unabashed celebration of Borges’ “Funes, the Memorious.” And as a special added bonus, listen as they segue into a discussion of “The South,” another of Liniers’ favorite stories by the masterful story writer, Jorge Luis Borges.

More about Ricardo Siri (Liniers):

Born in Buenos Aires in 1973, Ricardo Siri became a daily cartoonist at the age of 28 almost by accident, when other Argentine newspaper cartoonists had decamped to Spain at the nadir of a recession. He saw his role on the last page of La Nación as offering a respite from dour news, but the strip’s whimsy and humanity quickly led Macanudo to expand to papers across Latin America, and eventually beyond to Europe and North America. Three of Liniers' children's books have been published in the US, with Good Night, Planet, winning the comics industry Eisner Award for Best Publication for Early Readers in 2018. He currently lives in Vermont.

Yvette Benavides can be reached at bookpublic@tpr.org.
Peter Orner is the author of the essay collections Still No Word from You and Am I Alone Here? His story collections are Maggie Brown and Others, Esther Stories, Last Car Over the Sagamore Bridge. His novels are Love and Shame and Love and The Second Coming of Mavala Shikongo. He is a professor of English and creative writing at Dartmouth College where he directs the creative writing program.