To tell a story, to listen to a story being told — these are things that belong to the very core of social life; to put into words ‘what happened’ (‘what I said to him’, ‘what she said to me’), if not something older than the beginnings of song, or the first crude attempts at drama, is incomparably older than argument about ideas, reaction of the moral self to what happens around us, or objective description of the way the world works. Western literature begins with two of the greatest stories ever told, Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey. In antiquity, in the Renaissance, the predominant literary form was the poem or the play that told a story. For the last two hundred years it has been the novel.
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