Thursday, March 30, 2006

John Berger on Storytelling

Most, if not all, stories begin with the death of the principal protagonist. It is in this sense that one can say that storytellers are Death’s secretaries. It is Death who hands them the file. The file is full of uniformly black paper but they have eyes for reading them and from this file they construct a story for the living. Here the question of invention, so much insisted upon by certain schools of modern critics and professors, becomes patently absurd. All that the storyteller needs or has is the capacity to read what is written in black.

Excerpt; "The Secretary of Death" from The Sense of Sight


St Antonym said...

It is not about invention. John has said this before, but no one seems to listen.


It's about receptivity. That's why the senses play such a large role in story-telling. It's about transmitting signals, seeing, hearing. "Secretary" is the right word: it's a very humble duty.

Leon said...

I come upon this blog very late. But I just have to comment that, in my own work, I have said that all great art and great science have this in common: To learn to see. Huang Po, a 9th century Chinese Zen Master, said that wise men reject what they think, not what they see, while fools reject what they see, not what they think. For me, that says it all. Poetry or art is not invention, as you say.

By the way, do you know what book John Berger's essay can be found in? I have been looking for it, which is how I came upon your blog.

Leon Zitzer

Leon said...

I thought I would just add one more quote from Czeslaw Milosz: "How difficult it is to look clearly at oneself and at others, to not tell lies, not create myths." This is from his book of essays written during World War II, "Legends of Modernity".

Leon Zitzer