Dan Sandman

20: The Storyteller by Mario Vargos Llosa

In Books, Fiction on 15/05/2015 at 12:00 pm

The Storyteller by Mario Vargas LlosaThe Storyteller (1987) is essentially a book about how important stories are to people, across all cultures and historical points. It’s an intellectual novel, that shifts between two contrasting points of view. The first viewpoint is written in Spanish by a university academic; the second is spoken aurally in the language of an Amazonian tribe. As both stories intrigue our curiosity, we are compelled to think about the important role that storytelling has always played in human history and prehistory.

I heard on the radio the other day that baboons sing songs to communicate ideas, such as ‘warning! there’s a snake in the grass.’ But among all species, modern humans are the only creatures who tell stories. To do so, over many thousands of years, we have evolved a set of complex sounds (speaking), symbols (writing) and images (visual art). In the past, when an Amazonian tribesman wanted to know why the moon rises in the sky every night, a religious story was created to fulfill this need to understand; or when Daniel Defoe wanted to sell books to a growing middle class, he wrote Robinson Crusoe and had it printed. Over the last century, technology advanced new forms of storytelling to go alongside these more traditional methods, from silent movies to internet blogs.

So now, with a vast number of ways to tell a story, and so many millions of internet users sharing their personal stories each day through social networking sites, storytelling has never been so widespread. But not all of our online friends have the gift for storytelling that Mario Vargos Llosa does, nor do they wish to work hard at making their stories intriguing in an intellectual way. Mostly, our online friends tend to post pictures of their cats and comment on them ‘oh, that’s such a cute cat! (smiley face)’. Speaking of cat pictures, I was recently sent an article from The Daily Mash: –

“Kitten imagery is like antibiotics, we’ve built up a tolerance through over-use.” (Professor Henry Brubaker)


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