Coming from a superb storyteller, this comment on the secret of the Great Stories is refreshing and insightful. It has long fascinated me how some of the best literature can grip you even though you know the ending – think of Jane Eyre or other Bronte novels.
This also gives me reassurance as I tackle a new challenge, that of writing stories, something I stopped doing when I was about ten. And restarted a few decades later.
‘It didn’t matter that the story had begun, because kathakali discovered long ago that the secret of the Great Stories is that they have no secrets. The Great Stories are the ones you have heard and want to hear again. The ones you can enter anywhere and inhabit comfortably. They don’t deceive you with thrills and trick endings. They don’t surprise you with the unforeseen. They are as familiar as the house you live in. Or the smell of your lover’s skin. You know how they end, yet you listen as though you don’t. In the way that although you know that one day you will die, you live as though you won’t. In the Great Stories you know who lives, who dies, who finds love, who doesn’t. And yet you want to know again. That is their mystery and their magic.’
For other story related gems, see Jorge Luis Borges on the essence of Turkestan tales; Mia Couto on stories and streets; Karen Blixen on stories as therapy; Elizabeth Goudge on fairy tales as lessons in existential humility, David Boyle on the value of stories in a world driven by numbers.
Source: Arundhati Roy, The God of Small Things (London: Flamingo, 1997), p. 229
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