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Kundera’s Man of Feeling

Michael Wood, 13 June 1991

by Milan Kundera, translated by Peter Kussi.
Faber, 387 pp., £14.99, May 1991, 0 571 14455 1
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Storm 2: New Writing from East and West 
edited by Joanna Labon.
93 pp., £5, April 1991, 9780009615139
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... Milan Kundera writes novels, but are they philosophy or fiction? Kundera himself (in an interview collected in The Art of Novel) finds the comparison with philosophy ‘inappropriate’: ‘Philosophy develops its thought in an abstract realm, without characters, without situations ...


Robert Taubman, 18 March 1982

The Book of Laughter and Forgetting 
by Milan Kundera.
Faber, 228 pp., £7.95, February 1982, 0 571 11830 5
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... Milan Kundera says of The Book of Laughter and Forgetting that ‘it is a novel about Tamina, and whenever Tamina is absent, it is a novel for Tamina.’ He says this in the novel, in which he himself appears and invents Tamina. Modern satirical fantasy, of which this is an exceptionally lively and thoughtful example, gives everyone the same fictional status: the author, his characters, historical figures, angels ...

Stalin is a joker

Michael Hofmann: Milan Kundera, 2 July 2015

The Festival of Insignificance 
by Milan Kundera, translated by Linda Asher.
Faber, 115 pp., £14.99, June 2015, 978 0 571 31646 5
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... in the 1970s and 1980s there was no getting round the French-Bohemian (actually Moravian) novelist Milan Kundera, who was to those decades what Sebald and Knausgaard were to be for those following. There was about these authors something chic and brainy and radical: three qualities the English have on the whole preferred to import as required rather than ...


Stephen Wall, 16 March 1989

The Art of the Novel 
by Milan Kundera, translated by Linda Asher.
Faber, 165 pp., £9.95, June 1988, 0 571 14819 0
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Adult Pleasures: Essays on Writers and Readers 
by Dan Jacobson.
Deutsch, 144 pp., £12.95, May 1988, 0 233 98204 3
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... commitment to the form that shames more academic approaches. Such practitioners’ confessions, as Milan Kundera calls them, may be more partial but they’re also more impassioned. They know what it is like, and they know what they want. It is Henry James, of course, who exhibits at the highest level the combination of the practising novelist’s ...

Kundera and Kitsch

John Bayley, 7 June 1984

The Unbearable Lightness of Being 
by Milan Kundera, translated by Henry Heim.
Faber, 314 pp., £9.50, May 1984, 9780571132096
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... an understanding of it. And that too is necessary for us, or at least desirable, and enjoyable. Milan Kundera’s latest novel is certainly one of the very good ones. It is in fact so amazingly better than anything he has written before that the reader can hardly believe it, is continually being lost in astonishment. In manner and technique it is not ...

Kiss me!

Benjamin Markovits: Kundera’s Nostalgia, 20 February 2003

by Milan Kundera, translated by Linda Asher.
Faber, 195 pp., £16.99, November 2002, 0 571 21550 5
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... Milan Kundera’s novels are built around ideas – predicaments, particular emotions, even gestures – like cities around metro stops. His characters live as close to them as possible, meet others of a like mind or misery, then depart for the next stop and the next conception. His new novel, Ignorance, isn’t about ignorance in the ordinary sense, but about the predicaments of both exile and homecoming: ‘In Spanish añoranza comes from the verb añorar (to feel nostalgia), which comes from the Catalan enyorar, itself derived from the Latin word ignorare (to be unaware of, not know, not experience; to lack or miss ...


Peter Jenkins, 20 December 1984

Antipolitics: An Essay 
by George Konrad, translated by Richard Allen.
Quartet, 243 pp., £8.95, August 1984, 0 7043 2472 5
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... about it. I am being careful not to refer to ‘Eastern Europe’ because I have learned from Milan Kundera that to do so is to rub salt into Yalta. ‘Eastern Europe’ implies that the countries there are not a part of the West, not properly, or are no longer to be regarded as part of Europe, and thus of civilisation. As ...

Count the Commas

Terry Eagleton: Craig Raine’s novel, 24 June 2010

by Craig Raine.
Atlantic, 186 pp., £12.99, July 2010, 978 1 84887 510 4
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... are represented as singers. One influence behind this loose-limbed, laid-back kind of novel is Milan Kundera. In its bleakly disenchanted portrayal of sexual love Heartbreak is a Kundera-like work, interweaving description of various fragile relationships with authorial reflections on the human condition. Like ...

Yellow Ribbons

Hal Foster: Kitsch in Bush’s America, 7 July 2005

... ends there). Kitsch has attracted – that is to say, repelled – novelists from Hermann Broch to Milan Kundera and critics from Clement Greenberg to Saul Friedländer, all of whom took it up at periods when technologies of mass culture and mass politics were intensifying: Broch and Greenberg after the dramatic rise of Fascist regimes in Europe in the ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Meaney: Ersatz Tyrants, 4 May 2017

... he is, one would expect a plan for stopping him at any cost. Instead of advising Americans to read Milan Kundera and Timothy Garton Ash, one would expect him to be referring them to Edward Luttwak’s Coup d’Etat: A Practical Handbook. If Trump is bent on dictatorship, doesn’t it make more sense, instead of suggesting Winston Churchill (whose bust is ...

Ariel goes to the police

Karl Miller, 4 December 1986

Life is elsewhere 
by Milan Kundera, translated by Peter Kussi.
Faber, 311 pp., £9.95, November 1986, 0 571 14560 4
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My First Loves 
by Ivan Klima, translated by Ewald Oser.
Chatto, 164 pp., £9.95, November 1986, 0 7011 3014 8
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... literature and love, and the roads and side-roads which join them together, are concerns of Kundera and Klima, whose name is a further concern of Kundera’s, and is used for the uxorious philanderer of his novel The Farewell Party. With the arrival of these two Czech writers Central Europe’s roman à K has taken a ...


Robert Walshe: Bumping into Beckett, 7 November 1985

... do. I walked back home and did it, beginning at page 242. Lately I have begun crossing paths with Milan Kundera, who must have fallen into a niche de bonne somewhere in the same part of the city. Boulevard Raspail, Rue de I’ Abbé Grégoire, mostly in the afternoons when other writers sleep. Kundera: white ...

Imaginary Homelands

Salman Rushdie, 7 October 1982

... art, including the novel of memory, becomes politicised. ‘The struggle of man against power,’ Milan Kundera has written, ‘is the struggle of memory against forgetting.’ Writers and politicians are natural rivals. Both groups try to make the world in their own images; they fight for the same territory. And the novel is one way of denying the ...

No Longer Handsome

William Skidelsky: Geoff Dyer, 25 September 2003

Yoga for People who Can't Be Bothered to Do It 
by Geoff Dyer.
Abacus, 238 pp., £10.99, April 2003, 0 316 72507 2
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... trend, he continues, might writers not be better off abandoning fiction altogether? He then quotes Milan Kundera, who, in his ‘Notes Inspired by The Sleepwalkers’, ‘demonstrated the need for “a new art of the specifically novelistic essay”’. According to Dyer, the finest example of this form in Kundera’s ...

I totally do look nice

Luke Brown: Adam Thirlwell, 19 March 2015

Lurid & Cute 
by Adam Thirlwell.
Cape, 358 pp., £16.99, January 2015, 978 0 224 08913 5
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... of the novel with him while he tells the story. Politics, his debut, acknowledged the influence of Milan Kundera and interspersed short sections of narrative with political anecdote – taken from Thirlwell’s reading, since he didn’t have Kundera’s Cold War experience – as a way of reflecting on his characters ...

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