Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Kundera's Genius Part 1 of Several

Milan Kundera is my favorite author right now. He has been a favorite for a long time, but my appreciation of him has deepened in the last year.

While I detest his male chauvanism, I find his formal invention dazzling. And his scope and depth are amazing on many subjects. I would argue that one interview with him holds more observation of life and literature than whole novels, books of poems, and essay collections by others writing today.

To wit this interview of Kundera conducted by Philip Roth:

ROTH: The last part of your novel The Book of Laughter and Forgetting, the seventh part, actually deals with nothing but sexuality. Why does this part close the book rather than another, such as the much more dramatic sixth part in which the heroine dies?

KUNDERA: Tamina dies, metaphorically speaking, amid the laughter of angels. Through the last section of the book, on the other hand, resounds the contrary kind of laugh, the kind heard when things lose their meaning. There is a certain imaginary dividing line beyond which things appear senseless and ridiculous. A person asks himself: Isn't it nonsensical for me to get up in the morning? to go to work? to strive for anything? to belong to a nation just because I was born that way? Man lives in close proximity to this boundary, and can easily find himself on the other side. That boundary exists everywhere, in all areas of human life and even in the deepest, most biological of all: sexuality. And precisely because it is the deepest region of life the question posed to sexuality is the deepest question. This is why my book of variations can end with no variation but this.

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