When I ordered The Bear’s Famous Invasion of Sicily by Dino Buzzati from the library, I had absolutely no idea what it was going to be about. I picked it through lucky dip. Little did I know the roller coaster ride that was in store for me.
This book is crazy. Not only is it absurd, surrealist, dark, and pretty gruesome at times, it seems to have squashed a whole lot of different elements of storytelling into one story. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed it, but I found it quite interesting how the story jumped from prose, to poetry, to illustration, to what seemed like the script of a greek tragedy when the men and the bears sing to each other chorus by chorus. One chapter could have five different styles of storytelling mixed within it.
This got me thinking – why do we choose certain ways to tell a story over others? Do some stories suit being told through movies, others on the stage, some on the page, some prose, some poetry, and the list goes on. There are thousands of way to tell stories, all of them as valid as the next one. So how do you choose how to tell your story? Is it to do with your abilities – some people find poetry comes naturally to them, others visualise their plot in their head like a film unfolding – does how you imagine a story determine its form? Or do stories themselves determine how they are born? Do some stories only fit a certain medium? The adaptation of books to film seem to beg to differ on that point.
Dino Buzzati had broken the mould by pinching bits from all sorts of writing forms into one story. Do some stories need to cross boundaries to be told? I am sure that The Bear’s Famous Invasion of Sicily would not be near as wonderful if it was not interspersed with strings of poetry and Buzzati’s fantastic illustrations. But should more stories weave together different mediums? I’m not sure. Only if the story really calls for it. It would feel a bit false to me otherwise. Perhaps it is the story that determines its form, after all.