Currently Listening to ‘What is a Story’

Currently Listening to 'What is a Story'

Thanks to a seasonal re-run we’re currently listening to What is a Story? on BBC Radio 4, first broadcast in 2015. Starting with an examination of our early experiences of stories, Marina Warner looks at the world of contemporary fiction in this ten-part documentary.

In the company of leading contemporary writers, she considers a story and story writing from a different angle. The fifteen minute episodes are easily digested, with two five-episode omnibus editions if you prefer.

Warner speaks with writers as diverse as Julian Barnes, Michelle Roberts, Fanny Howe, Marlene van Niekerk, Alain Mabanckou, Lydia Davis, Edwin Frank, Elleke Boehmer, Wen-Chin Ouyang, Daniel Medin, Nadeem Aslam and Laszlo Krasznahorkai.

There are questions around the boundaries between fact and fiction which Marina believes are central to any consideration of storytelling, since readers’ pleasure depends so much on trust built up between the storyteller or writer and the audience.

Over the ten episodes, there are discussions on the reasons for writing, writers as witnesses and political interaction:

  • First Times
  • Why Write Stories
  • It’s all absolutely True
  • Bearing Witness
  • History for the Record
  • Filling the Gaps
  • Is Anyone Responsible?
  • Speaking in Parables
  • Ghosts of Home
  • As If: Dreams of Shelter

Marina Warner was Chair of the Man Booker International Prize in 2015 and the series draws on the expertise of the International Booker judging panel, the views of the shortlisted writers, as well as other key literary talent.