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The Art of the Novel (Perennial Classics) Reprint Edition
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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.Read more ›
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.
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.
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....
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Very inspirational. It is not a how to book, though I did gain insight into Kundera's writing process. It is a why book. Why right novels? Read morePublished 16 months ago by elisa cohen
Perphaps one of the most interesting contemporary perspectives on the novel. Easy to read and ennjoyable. Read morePublished 16 months ago by Alexei V. Lopez Enriquez
Kundera has this crazy breadth of interests and themes that span his works, as well as a love for historic details. Read morePublished 19 months ago by Mike Chronley
A gift for my daughter, an aspiring writer; I trust her judgment, if she asked for it, I'm happy to recommend it (she's already made some $$ with her writing, so that's perhaps a... Read morePublished 24 months ago by ScienceGuy
Kundera, is clear and direct with his explanations of the Novel. It's not useful to explain his explanation. Read morePublished on May 1, 2014 by Ralph J. Argen III
“NOVEL. The great prose form in which an author thoroughly explores, by means of experimental selves (characters), some great themes of existence. Read morePublished on December 11, 2013 by Glenn Russell
This book has the property of timelessness, much like the "writing on writing" that is seen in Eric Auerbach and Kenneth Burke. Read morePublished on October 25, 2010 by A Certain Bibliophile