John Berger and Arundhati Roy on How To Be a Writer

Storytellers who listen

The award-winning art critic and novelist John Berger once said: 'If I'm a storyteller it's because I listen. For me, a storyteller is like a passeur who gets contraband across a frontier.' He'd present you with one thing in order to talk about something else entirely. That evocation of the passeur can be glimpsed in Arundhati Roy's latest collection of lectures and newspaper articles, Azadi (2020), writes Mark Rappolt, which explores – among many other subjects – the limits of art (or rather, the limits to our perception and definition of art).

'Fact and fiction are not converse', Roy writes. 'One is not necessarily truer than the other, more factual than the other, or more real than the other.' The important thing is to have a story worth telling, or to smuggle out the stories of others who can't be heard or whom no one wants to hear. 'Fiction has its uses – for smuggling messages that can't be said directly,' Rappolt writes. 'But, when we can say things straight up, we should have the courage to do that too.'

Plus: join us tomorrow, Thursday 28 January, 5pm GMT, for a conversation with Random International and Wayne McGregor, moderated by Mark Rappolt, to discuss their new collaborative artwork. RSVP here.

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