The Importance of Stories and Listening

This wonderful article was sent to me by a friend and a marvelous storyteller, Robert Bela Wilhelm.

The article, “The Art of Listening,” by Henning Mankell, was published in the Dec. 10 New York Times.  Mankell is a Swedish author of many books, including the Wallendar novels.  He also spent 25 years in Africa, an experience central to what he writes here.

Henning Mankell

His comments on listening are striking:  “In Africa listening is a guiding principle. It’s a principle that’s been lost in the constant chatter of the Western world.”

Of great interest too is his observation that western story structure is simply one possibility among many.  Mankell writes:  “instead of linear narrative, there is unrestrained and exuberant storytelling that skips back and forth in time and blends together past and present. Someone who may have died long ago can intervene without any fuss in a conversation between two people who are very much alive.”

Check this out.  The article is brief and I’m sure you will enjoy it.

4 thoughts on “The Importance of Stories and Listening

  1. Listening is, indeed, a lost art. In fact, true conversation is becoming a lost art. I see people walking together talking to other people on cell phones or sitting together texting to other people. Yikes. I don’s see this getting better.


  2. This relates to something I’ve heard related to the idea of Self-publishing novels. If everyone is writing, who is reading (or listening in this case)?

    The article was really interesting, I really liked the short dialogue between the two old men. “That’s not a good way to die – before you’ve told the end of your story.”

    What a wonderful line.


    • For a very long time, my real interest was in folklore and oral storytelling. Now that, for the moment, I’ve lost interest in the novel I was writing, this excursion feels a lot like going back to my “roots.”


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