Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Storyteller

"Less and less frequently do we encounter people with the ability to tell a tale properly. More and more often there is embarassment all around when the wish to hear a story is expressed. It is as if something that seemed inalienable to us, the securest among our possessions, were taken from us: our ability to exchange experiences."

"...[T]here emerges a form of communication which, no matter how far back its origins lie, never before influenced the epic form in a decisive way. But now it does exert such an influence. And it turns out that it confronts storytelling as no less a stranger than did the novel, but in a more menacing way, and that it also brings about a crisis in the novel. This new form of communication is information."

"The value of information does not survive the moment in which it was new. It lives only in that moment; it has to surrender to it completely and explain itself to it without losing any time. A story is different. It does not expend itself. It preserves and concentrates its strength and is capable of releasing it even after a long time."

"It has seldom been realized that the listener's naive relationship to the storyteller is controlled by his interest in retaining what he is told. The cardinal point for the unaffected listener is to assure himself of the possibility of reproducing the story...Memory creates the chain of tradition which passes a happening on from generation to generation."

"For storytelling is always the art of repeating stories, and this art is lost when the stories are no longer retained...The more self-forgetful the listener is, the more deeply is what he listens to impressed on the memory."

Assorted quotes from Walter Benjamin's remarkable 1936 essay, "The Storyteller," which I have just been made aware of.

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