Of the storyteller, Walter Benjamin observes that:
Death is the sanction of everything [he] can tell. He has borrowed his authority from death.
and, by way of explanation, makes the following remarkable claim (emphasis mine):
A man—so says the truth that was meant here—who died at thirty-five will appear to remembrance at every pointin his life as a man who dies at the age of thirty-five. In other words, the statement that makes no sense for real life becomes indisputable for remembered life. The nature of the character in the novel cannot be presented any better than is done in this statement, which says that the ‘meaning’ of his life is revealed only in his death. But the reader of a novel actually does look for human beings from whom he derives the ‘meaning of life’. Therefore he must, no matter what, know in advance that he will share their experience of death: if need be their figurative death—the end of the novel—but preferably their actual one…. The novel is significant, therefore, not because it presents someone else’s fate to us, perhaps didactically, but because this stranger’s fate by virtue of the flame which consumes it yields us the warmth which we never draw from our own fate. What draws the reader to the novel is the hope of warming his shivering life with a death he reads about.
— from Walter Benjamin, The Storyteller
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