by Christina Stead (1902-1983)

On Wednesday we published a review of Stead’s nonfiction piece, “Ocean of story”, the first in a collection with the same title published posthumously in 1986. (As Stead’s work is still in copyright, it can only be excerpted here.)

The story has a magic necessary to our happiness. In the West no one knew of the thousand and one nights, Oriental stories in Arabic, until they were translated by the Abbé Antoine Galland in France. They were a wild success. Fashionable young men collected round the Abbé’s home calling for him; and, when he appeared, cried, ‘Tell us another story, Abbé, tell us another story.’ (That happens in New York at night, too, when, as I have seen, friends gather and tell their remarkable, endless folklore.) And the belief that life is a dream and we the dreamers only dreams, which comes to us at strange, romantic, and tragic moments, what is it but a desire for the great legend, the powerful story rooted in all things which will explain life to us and, understanding which, the meaning of things can be threaded through all that happens? Then there will no longer be a dream, but life in the clear.

Christina Stead, “Ocean of story,” in Ocean of story: the uncollected stories of Christina Stead, (1986, Penguin: Ringwood, Vic): 7-8; text transcribed from – accessed 26/09/023 (The collection can be read online but access conditions apply.)