Hunting down

It sounds much better in French. Les conteurs sont des chasseurs. Storytellers are hunters. The word is a beast to be pursued, trapped, captured.

The American anthropologist Keith Basso pointed out that one salient feature of Western Apache cultures was their members’ understanding as hunters of words. Words without which their own culture wouldn’t exist, wouldn’t move at all. Words are not just for communicating and negotiating day-to-day activities, from survival to enjoyment, but they are there to ground, to anchor the human body into a body of collectivities, the source of tradition and profoundly human living.

But grounding never comes easy, as only a hunter knows. Stopping the flow of nature for the tribe to enjoy, setting a target and making it stop, is a task as difficult for an Apache with a weapon as it is for an Apache with a voice and a story to tell. As difficult for anyone.

Telling stories about each other is perhaps the most human activity and the most unavoidable experience. Everything we are is due to a story – even our birth, for each of us, is the making of a story bringing two people together.

Stories are created, but they are also hunted down. Especially when it feels that time and space are trying their best to cancel and erase. That’s why storytellers have always been quasi, if not fully religious agents, relaying (religion -> religare, to bind fast) two worlds to each other, the individual to the group and back, and the past to present and back again.

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