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“To survive, you must tell stories.” Umberto Eco
And we have, ever since we became humans – storytelling defines us.
“A Biography of Story, a Brief History of Humanity celebrates Story in an entertaining cultural history, a highly original take on the power of stories in the comedy and tragedy of human affairs.”
This is non-fiction. A true story. It is our own human epic told through the tales of storytellers from many parts of the world. As a story writer and a social anthropologist, I drew on both of these passions to create a ‘biography’ of Story that is factually accurate yet presented with imagination.
Beginning with oral tales of our foraging ancestors, the emergence of writing, the great migrations, the age of exploration and the invention of printing through to the industrial revolution and the digital age, we hear voices from all over the world.
I constructed each chapter around a significant era of human history and considered the questions: Who were the storytellers? What events did they live through and respond to? How did these events affect the nature of Story? And how did Story influence events?
Though I write in an accessible style to entertain ‘Everyman’, A Biography of Story has a serious edge. Stories hugely influence the way we think and act. Throughout history, and especially since the emergence of writing systems and then printing, powerful people sought to control, silence, or manipulate stories. They created master narratives that vindicated wars, slavery, dictatorships and imperialism, while storytellers fought to tell alternative narratives. The potential for both manipulation and alternative narratives is even greater in a digital age that promises freedom yet threatens oppression. Story has always lived in dangerous times, yet her freedom is essential for our own survival.
So I found some remarkable storytellers to escort us through this landscape of interwoven history and literature. They include poets and peasants, playwrights and novelists and the creators of short stories: all the daughters, sons, lovers and protégés of Story. Through extracts of their epics, verses, fables or sagas, and anecdotes from their lives, they share a more personal view of the age in which they lived.
From tales of the Bedouin, to Homer, Aesop and Valmiki, and from Celtic bards, Icelandic skalds and Chinese tales to Chaucer, Rabelais, Shakespeare, Scott and Chekhov, some of the many storytellers featured will be familiar to you, others from Africa, South America, Asia and the Pacific may be fresh discoveries. You may be surprised how many of our stories today originated in the ancient Panchatantra tales, how the Thousand and One Nights have never ended, and why we should still take note of Reynard the Fox. And women are not ignored in this cultural history.
Because this is a celebration of Story, we have dressed her in style: the collectible hardback edition bound in red cloth has gorgeous printed endpapers, the paperback cover bears prestigious ‘wings’, and there are over forty black and white illustrations and photographic reproductions. All lithographically printed on caressable 100 gm paper.
A book-lover’s book, to ‘have and to hold’.
or from Amazon UK here.
A Biography of Story, A Brief History of Humanity is published in the UK on 28th March 2017 in paperback (£14.99) and hardback (£24.99)
ISBN 9781785899492 (paperback) 9781785899508 (hardback) 480 pp, illustrated
Distributor: Orca Book Services. BIC subject category: HBTB – social & cultural history
For media review copies, please email: marketing (at) troubador.co.uk