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The Art of the Novel (Perennial Classics) Reprint Edition

4.6 out of 5 stars 28 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0060093747
ISBN-10: 0060093749
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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Incites us to reflect on fiction and philosophy, knowledge and truth, and brilliantly illustrates the art of the essay." -- -- New Republic --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Language Notes

Text: English, French (translation) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Series: Perennial Classics
  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial Modern Classics; Reprint edition (April 1, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060093749
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060093747
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.4 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #158,690 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
"Outside the novel, we're in the realm of affirmation: everyone is sure of his statements: the politician, the philosopher, the concierge. Within the universe of the novel, however, no one affirms: it is the realm of play and of hypotheses. In the novel, then, reflection is essentially inquiring, hypothetical."
Thus Milan Kundera affirms the wonder and beauty of the novel and explains the difference between how philosophers think and how novelists think. Born of the Modern Era ushered in by seventeenth century rationalism, the novel contemplates and explores existence in the Modern Era. Like the Modern Era, the novel is distinguished by its ambiguity and complexity. For Kundera, the novel's core is an inquiry, not a moral position. It makes sense, therefore, that in a world where humans long for black/white, wrong/right distinction, that the "wisdom of uncertainty" which Kundera calls the wisdom of the novel, should be so hard to accept and understand.
This remarkable short book shares the seven part form of several of Kundera's novels: each can stand alone but all are connected by vital and pervading themes. The seven parts comprise two essays, a collection of notes, two dialogues, a dictionary of sixty-three words, and an acceptance speech for a literary prize--and not in the order just mentioned. This mosaic structure works well to underscore part of Kundera's point: there are many ways to approach an understanding of the novel. Is Don Quixote a critique or a celebration of idealism? Both cases have been made often, neither is right--the novel's spirit of complexity and continuity brooks no dogmatism. In fact, the novel has its own "radical autonomy" which Kundera uses to illuminate the works of Franz Kafka.
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Format: Paperback
Milan Kundera is a Czechoslavakian writer who lives in France. He's written a number of novels, among the THE BOOK OF LAUGHTER AND FORGETTING and THE UNBEARABLE LIGHTNESS OF BEING. In this, his first nonfiction effort, Kundera relates the concept of the novel to his own work. The first two essays were inspired by an interview he gave to The Paris Review on his practical experiences with the art of the novel.
His focus goes beyond his own work, however. Kundera presents some rather intense and unusual analyses of his personal favorite writers: Cervantes, Rabelais, Sterne, Diderot, Flaubert, Tolstoy and Kafka, to name just a few.
This is a book for the scholarly reader; the reader who knows literature. It is one that illuminates all sorts of possibilities for writing the novel, for Kundera points out the the novel can express life in ways that can't be achieved by any other form.
He moves from the general to the specific -- from the form of the novel, to the way others have used it, to his own work. Particularly interesting is his dictionary of 63 key words which he says are essential to understanding his fiction. His observations about the state of contemporary Russian literature -- what is being published and why -- are fascinating. He also expresses his frustration, as an author, with translators of his works and how they handle language.
"The art of reading," wrote Andre Maurois, "is in great part that of acquiring a better understanding of life from one's encounter with a book." Readers will come away from this with a better understand of the novel as an expression of life as well as deeper insight into a number of classical works.
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Format: Paperback
This relatively small book (165 pages) offers an engaging peek into the mind of a brilliant novelist and scholar. Consisting of interviews, speeches, and published work, Kundera expounds on his literary beliefs about what makes a great novel. My favorite sections are the interviews because of their immediacy and accessibility, although the author's most profound insights arise from his discussion of other authors: Kafka, Cervantes, Tolstoy, Flaubert, and others.
Writers, students of literature, and Kundera's faithful readers should find much to think about in these pages. This is not a light discourse on how to write a novel; Kundera takes his art seriously, in both deeply instinctive and scholarly ways. Those looking for a how-to book would be well-served to look elsewhere.
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By A Customer on September 4, 1998
Format: Paperback
I recall that when asked about his "Theorie Aesthetique" by a journalist, Picasso took out a pistol and shot it in the air. Evidently Picasso did not care to banalize his works into neat theories for art critics. The problem is that Picasso often did lapse into following a theoretical form...more so in his later works.
I read this book in French, "L'Art Du Roman" and while it does not attempt to reduce Kundera's works to neat theories, it does shed light on the philosphical underpinnings of many of his novels.
In fact, one of the main themes of this book is the critique of reductionism. He exalts the "Wisdom of Uncertainty" and eschews any art work that proceeds from an ideology or moral high ground as such leads to judgement rather than understanding. Somewhat in an existentialist vein, Kundera promotes the idea of "l'ambiguite" as the ideal for the novel. That is to say that given we live in a world where there is no right or wrong way to proceed, the role of the novel is to understand each character within his own constructs, not according to some extrnal morality or ideology.
Kundera's debt to Heidegger is made obvious throughout the book, and Kundera quotes him often. One is left wondering what Kundera's ideas on morality might be. However, I would not go so far as saying that he follows suit with Heidegger on this mattter. Heidegger's "Sein und Zeit" is interested in the question of being. For Da-Sein, morality is secondary, and relativistic, not primary and essential. No doubt, this indiffference towards morality led to Heidegger's nazism. However, if Kundera does not take a moralistic posture in "unbearable Lightness of Being", he defintiely implies that we suffer or thrive on a spiritual level with certain choices that we make....
-Thomas Seay
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