Wednesday, June 06, 2007

The Curtain - Milan Kundera

By writing the story of Don Quixote, Cervantes tore open the curtain that represented the perceived world and revealed the world untold to the people says Milan Kundera in his new book called The Curtain. Cervantes' Don Quixote, and Francois Rabelais' Gargantua and Pantagruel, considered as the starting of this new form of literature and he says the novel has to reveal ( remove the curtain ) some previously unrecognised human life.

This book I would consider a sequel to his earlier book called "The Art of Novel". He takes of from where he left us in the art of novel. Kundera discusses history , continuity of the art form, the progress and history of this art form. As in the case of the art of novel he rely on the older generation of European novelists from Cervantes , Kafka , Tolstoy , Musil etc etc for his explanations.

Novel defined by one of its early protagonist ( Fielding) is "a quick and sagacious penetration into the true essence of all the objects of our contemplation". "A novelist is born out of the ruins of his lyrical world" . "The writer's work isonly a kind of optical instrument he provides the reader so he can discern what he might never have seen in himself without this book. The reader's recognition in himself of what the book says is the proof of the book's truth", as stated by Marcel Proust defines the meaning of the very art of novel.

Art has a continuity. To understand and relish an artform you will also need to understand its transformation and continuity. As Kundera put it, Every modern writers have taken inspiration from their earlier generation of writers. James Joyce from Flaubert , Feilding from Cervantes , Stendhal from Fielding, Marquez from Kafka. A novel is never confines within the state or countries boundary and it has a wider reach among all the people of the world. National Literature has no meaning these days, we are in the era of World Literature.

Milan Kundera is one of the few authors, I would not miss any books , whether it is his fiction or his non-fiction writings. And I prefer his non-fiction these days as his recent fictions books , ignorance or slowness did not impress me much. I have been seeing the arrival of this book from Amazon for a while and it is not available in India yet. Hence I had to shell out some extra money to buy this on my travel.

I found this book very interesting and easy reading. It was a little hard to understand when I was reading the "art of novel" and comparing to the earlier experience I found this reading much easier. Of cource, Ar of the novel was read about 12 years back and I have definitely read much more and have aged ( may be a little wiser). If you are a seriour reader of literature ( especially world literature) , this book is a must read and will enhance your own understanding of this form of art.

Before I end, I found this statement made by one of his friend to him after the fall of the communist regime in Czeckoslovakia and they have embarked the capitalist economy. It summarises the fate of every developing nations "Commercial stupidity has replaced the ideological stupidity".

If you like a more detailed review ( which I find the best ) click here

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