I can appreciate that Edoardo Ballerini hasn’t had a chance to get out much, while he has been recording all 133 hours of Karl Ove Knausgård’s autobiography (Narration is a new art form says audiobook pioneer, 2 January).
However, while the audiobook is, in the great scheme of things, a new art form, narration certainly is not.
Ballerini is an actor, not a storyteller, so perhaps he is simply moving in the wrong circles. Spoken word storytelling is, I have to confess, a pretty small circle these days, certainly as a profession, but it is an ancient – perhaps the most ancient – art form, for it needs no equipment and is accessible to all. Telling stories is a fundamental human way of making sense of the world.
Professional storytellers are regularly cast as second fiddles to actors, authors, rappers and even film directors, who are all frequently referred to as “storytellers”. Yet the skill of conjuring a story into the imagination and senses of others, simply through the spoken word and its direct human connection, is a magical yet accessible skill. How much more intimate is the experience of being present to hear a traditional tale told simply, with no props, costume, special effects or artifice, than audiobooks “consumed on smartphones”.
I hope Ballerini gets a chance to find out for himself how gripping listening to a traditional storyteller at work can be. There are many storytelling clubs where he could experience this ancient art form.
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