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Encounter: Essays Paperback – October 4, 2011

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Originally published as Une rencontre in France, Kundera’s home since leaving Czechoslovakia in 1975, this collection of brief essays explores his relationship with art (especially modern art) and mortality (to some extent, his own). Though his subjects include Fellini, Schoenberg, and painter Francis Bacon, much of what Kundera has to say has to do with the novel and the successes and shortcomings of certain novelists; in this way, this selection echoes The Art of the Novel (1986). But his musings on Louis-Ferdinand Céline, Anatole France, and Curzio Malaparte (and others, like Dostoyevsky and Phillip Roth, more familiar to American audiences) occasionally take a wistful turn, and in describing the artists whose work he has loved, his guard seems to come down a bit. A meditation on the French-speaking Caribbean island of Martinique includes a description of the moon that aches with reverence for its beauty but also for its neglect by people who no longer look up at the sky. Perceptive and intimate, this selection will be appreciated by Kundera’s many admirers and of interest to fans of European literature in general. --Brendan Driscoll --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


“Cultivated, worldly, charming and spirited…Kundera’s values are sane and humane; his impulses generous; his taste, overall, unimpeachable.” (Phillip Lopate, San Francisco Chronicle)

“I can’t imagine reading this book without being challenged and instructed, amused, amazed and aroused, and ultimately delighted.” (John Simon, New York Times Book Review)

“A commanding, compelling collection…Kundera’s essays express enduring aesthetic loyalties and provide unexpected aesthetic sparks that remind readers of a fuller range of authentic thought and feeling.” (Michael S. Roth, Los Angeles Times)

“Compelling essays.” (Boston Sunday Globe)

“Deeply personal and warmly inviting…Encounter serves as a call to arms for a culture on the verge of losing its artistic credibility.” (Time Out New York)

“A remarkable collection that showcases the author’s diverse interests and sparkling talent…Kundera looks at the way exile and estrangement impact upon art and creation.” (New York Journal of Books)

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; Reprint edition (October 4, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061894435
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061894435
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.4 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #761,707 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Milan Kundera, born in Brno, Czechoslovakia, was a student when the Czech Communist regime was established in 1948, and later worked as a labourer, jazz musician and professor at the Institute for Advanced Cinematographic Studies in Prague. After the Russian invasion in August 1968, his books were proscribed. In 1975, he and his wife settled in France, and in 1981, he became a French citizen. He is the author of the novels The Joke, Life is Elsewhere, Farewell Waltz, The Book of Laughter and Forgetting, The Unbearable Lightness of Being, and Immortality, and of the short-story collection Laughable Loves - all originally in Czech. His most recent novels, Slowness, Identity and Ignorance, as well as his non-fiction works The Art of the Novel and Testaments Betrayed, were originally written in French.

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19 of 22 people found the following review helpful By A Certain Bibliophile on September 3, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Milan Kundera's newest foray into the essay, "Encounter," continues his critical engagement with the history and aesthetic of the European novel and the place and importance of art today. It contains four longer essays (fifteen to twenty pages each) on, respectively, the art of Francis Bacon, an "homage" to Anatole France, the artistic sensibilities of particular Martinican poets (Aime Cesair among them), and Curzio Malaparte's novel "The Skin." Most of these essays, however, are occasional pieces which rarely exceed four or five pages in length. Because of their length, they are almost necessarily underdeveloped. Many of these shorter pieces should have been made more substantial and elaborated upon. Kundera's insight and coolly analytical approach would have greatly benefitted the ideas they were lavished upon, as in the longer essays. If anything, that would be the one thing that I would change about this collection.

That having been said, there are a great many things of particular interest in this book. In his first substantial essay - the one on Bacon - he states a distinct paradox that all artists confront in the pursuit of their craft (see below for the extent to which one of the main concerns of this text is paradox): how does one capture the essence of a human (in this case, the work in question is Bacon's triptych of Henrietta Moraes) whose very essence is accidental? Kundera's answer is that Bacon distorts and contorts the images of people to see to what someone can have this done to them, but still maintain their identity; Kundera calls this Bacon's "brutal gesture.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Joseph Landes on May 15, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Every now and then a book comes along that makes you pause and say to yourself "why have I not read more by this author." "Encounter" by Milan Kundera is just this book. I picked it up after seeing that it was named one of the NY Times Notable Bookes of 2010 and I was not dissapointed. Kundera as people know is a Czech writer who was exiled in 1975 and has lived in France every since. His books were banned by the old Czechoslovakian Communist government until 1989 when the Velvet Revolution hit and the country was opened up again.

This book, which in truth is a collections of stories and thoughts by Kundera, reminds me most of "The Book of Laughter and Forgetting" which he wrote in 1979 and which tells ofCzech citizens opposing the Communist regime in various ways. In "Encounter" he spends a lot of time talking about his opnions of art and artists includign Fellini and Schoenberg as well as Francis Bacon. I was pleasantly surprised to also read a short piece on one of my favorite novelists Philip Roth. Finally, he spends a great deal of time on the Carribean island of Martinique--a place of beauty and interest--and makes it come alive to the reader. A good collection of thoughts that helps you get a bit into the mind of Milan Kundera and I highly recommend it.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
kundera’s style reminds me of the work of montaigne, the man who contemplated and developed his opinions of what interested him into what, thanks to him, has become known as the essay. to begin with a thought, to jot down an insight while it’s fresh, there’s a rawness about that, ripeness is not always all. with their kafkaesque sensibility and more accessible than nietzsche’s aphorisms, kundera’s brief pieces do share such company.

born in czechoslovakia, as a writer kundera experienced his country invaded by the soviets in 1968, a shock to the western world who watched the advent of some of the new art scene in 1964 at the world’s fair in new york at the czechoslovakian pavilion. a published novelist, kundera settled in exile in france in 1975 where he continues to write. he purports to be a french writer writing of czech experiences. the thought central to his essays is the encounter of two cultures to form an identity or solidarity.
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By B. Wilson on November 11, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Wonderful followup to "The Curtain". Rich in it's examination of the novel, but also moves into painting, music, and poetry.

Mainly a defense of writing as art, especially with the examination of Malaparte and contrasting his work to Sartre's quote: "Prose is in essence utilitarian...the writer is a speaker: he designates, demonstrates, orders, rejects, questions, entreats, insults, persuades, insinuates."

Both in Malaparte's excerpts and Kundera's explanations, we find that writing can move far beyond utilitarian, in his last paragraph:

The war's closing moments bring out a truth that is both fundamental and banal, both eternal and disregarded: compared to the living, the dead have an overwhelming numerical superiority, not just the dead of this war's end but all the dead of all times, the dead of the past, the dead of the future; confident in their superiority, they mock us, they mock this little island of time we line in, this tiny time of the new Europe, they force us to grasp all its insignificance, all it's transience...
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