The Commentator - a Literary Method

The use of Talmudic text as narrative poses some interesting problems and challanges for story treatment.

First, the text lacks protagonists that are sustained through the story. Its characters change almost every scene and seldom reoccur later in the story, preventing the reader from neither empathizing nor sympathizing with these characters from start to end.

The second major challange is the "flatness" of the characters. The notion of personality, or internal mental world of the characters, is lacking. People are given by their names, title and actions. No motivation, no inner struggle or complexity.

But the main point that makes the Talmudic story different from other literary texts is that it focuses on the commentator and not the story. The role of the commentator, even if he or she are external to the text and are grahically placed on the page margins, is actually central to the reading itself. The commentator is not a persona, a single prefered "second self" created by the author and through whom the narrative is related. It is the multitude of possible interpretations, the harmonization of apparent contradictions and the interlinking of apparent irrelevancies that matter.

For this end, the apparent scareceness and poor literary development of the story actually serves a purpose. The schematic, dry and pseudo-historiographic account of people and events has no meaning of its own, but rather calls for a commentator, or several commentators, to step in and provide the meaning. Since the drama is not internal to the story characters, it is displaced into a drama of interpretational conflicts.

It is the purpose and the challange of this project to build on the notion of centrality of the commentator as the driving force in story development, building the suspence and drama through fostering debate and contemplating on the "what if"…
This "what if" also provides a non-linear aspect of reading the story. Moving back and forth along the text and possible external links not only enriches the reading experience, but it also gives it an engaging, game like sense. The contemporary non-linearity of having alternate endings is substituted by an ancient non-linearity of having different explanations.

The story is inevitable, its outcomes are known, but the explanation remains open. What does it mean is the question, not what should I do… And would Romeo and Juliet be the same if the ending could be altered?

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