And he in turn makes it the experience of those who are listening to his tale. The birthplace of the novel is the solitary individual, who is no longer able to express himself by giving examples of his most important concerns, is himself uncounseled, and cannot counsel others.To write a novel means to carry the incommensurable to extremes in the representation of human life.
A century before the age of the listicle, German philosopher, cultural theorist, literary critic, and unflinching idealist Walter Benjamin (July 15, 1892–September 26, 1940) explored this dance between information and wisdom with great insight and prescience in ) — a compendium of Benjamin’s ideas on language, literature, and life, originally published in 1968 and edited by the brilliant Hannah Arendt.A century ago, Benjamin directs his lament about the commodification of experience at the newspaper — a medium enjoying its commercial heyday, not without timelessly timely criticism — but it applies all the more piercingly to the whole buzzfeedery of today’s online news and entertainment industry: Every glance at a newspaper demonstrates that it has reached a new low, that our picture, not only of the external world but of the moral world as well, overnight has undergone changes which were never thought possible.[…] Never has experience been contradicted more thoroughly than strategic experience by tactical warfare, economic experience by inflation, bodily experience by mechanical warfare, moral experience by those in power.This distinguishes it from storytelling in particular.The storyteller takes what he tells from experience — his own or that reported by others.But if today “having counsel” is beginning to have an old-fashioned ring, this is because the communicability of experience is decreasing.In consequence we have no counsel either for ourselves or for others.One reason for this phenomenon is obvious: experience has fallen in value.And it looks as if it is continuing to fall into bottomlessness.And nothing would be more fatuous than to want to see in it merely a “symptom of decay,” let alone a “modern” symptom.It is, rather, only a concomitant symptom of the secular productive forces of history, a concomitant that has quite gradually removed narrative from the realm of living speech and at the same time is making it possible to see a new beauty in what is vanishing. The dissemination of the novel became possible only with the invention of printing.