Kundera Offers a Geology of Artistic Minds in Multi-Layered Essays

Cape Times (South Africa), November 5, 2010 | Go to article overview

Kundera Offers a Geology of Artistic Minds in Multi-Layered Essays


BYLINE: Review: Donald Paul

Milan Kundera

Faber & Faber

Milan Kundera excels in lengthy impenetrable titles such as The Unbearable Lightness of Being, the novel that brought him international recognition - that is, in the English-speaking world - in 1984.

He does it in this collection: one essay is titled The Untouchable Solitude of a Foreigner (Oscar Milosz), another The Comical Absence of the Comical (Dostoevsky: The Idiot).

In a sense it reveals his love of language, its simultaneous sense of declamation and obfuscation.

The title of this collection, Encounter, however, is exactly that: encounters with writers, painters, musicians and poets.

Kundera uses seven-league- boots language to cover his thoughts on literature and the arts.

Each sentence sweeps across a vast landscape of ideas, philosophies and conjectures. He defines "encounter" as "not a social relation, not |a friendship, not even an alliance"; it is, rather, "a spark; a lightning flash; random chance". The collection is aptly titled.

He introduces writers such as Vera Linhartova and Bohumil Hrabel (whom he describes respectively as "one the most admired writers in Czechoslovakia" and "the greatest living Czech writer" - Hrabel has since died).

Whether we are familiar with them or not, you are left with a deep sense of knowing these writers' works, if not their words.

The essay about Linhartova - Exile as Liberation According to Vera Linhartova - is, among all the essays, the one that should resonate deepest with our writers.

Kundera attends a lecture she gives where she asserts the absolute freedom of the writer whose "obligation to preserve his independence against all constraints comes before any other consideration". …

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