Writers on Writing: The Art of the Short Story

By Maurice A. Lee | Go to book overview

Let Me Tell You a Story

András Nagy

When a question is posed, maybe a serious or a paradoxical one, the answer could be as in the title: Let me tell you a story! It is a common response in our cultural context, in which stories of different forms and of different tradition; seem to communicate very fluently and eloquently—sometimes even with some aesthetic value “added.”

“How is that everyone has a story and each story is sad in some way?” asks the protagonist of Peter Nadas's novel The Book of Memories, the autobiographical hero of the great Hungarian story writer and novelist, just when these stories to tell are to share a past the lovers lived separately, and now they would get to know each other: both in the biblical sense and by these stories that fulfill the wish of lovers of being united.

“Let me explain it to you with a story” is a very common form of joke (the traditional urban folklore of Central Europe), and quite often with Jewish figures, when the wise rabbi is asked a question his answer starts with the above-mentioned reference to the story.

“What is your story?” is the first question to a newcomer in a prison cell, and his/her future may be very much depending not only on the story he/she has and the one that probably brought him/her here, but also on the way the story is told.

Story seems to be a common language, traditional and articulated, complex and yet deeply personal, included in the “greater narrative” of time, fate, history—and to be used for communication whenever other communicative forms seem to be unfit or unsatisfying. Or just boring.

These were at least my conclusions as a story writer and a story reader, and, when a short story is in the focus, my only concern is whether a story could

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