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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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... MilanKundera 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 ...

Stalin is a joker

Michael Hofmann: Milan Kundera

1 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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... dreamed of beginning a review with those snitty Amis/Waugh-type words – will need reminding that in the 1970s and 1980s there was no getting round the French-Bohemian (actually Moravian) novelist MilanKundera, 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 ...


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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... MilanKundera 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 ...


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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... on the novel – or, at any rate, good novelists on the novel – often write with a vigour and a commitment to the form that shames more academic approaches. Such practitioners’ confessions, as MilanKundera 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 ...
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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... necessary for life. The first kind contribute brilliantly not to life itself but to what seems an understanding of it. And that too is necessary for us, or at least desirable, and enjoyable. MilanKundera’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 ...


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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... effect, resulted in its expulsion from Europe. What is more, there was, and is today, an awful finality about it. I am being careful not to refer to ‘Eastern Europe’ because I have learned from MilanKundera 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 ...

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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... MilanKundera’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 ...

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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... to be averse to buying such volumes, the publishers have represented it as a novel, rather as Jedward are represented as singers. One influence behind this loose-limbed, laid-back kind of novel is MilanKundera. 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 ...
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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... Revolution, 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 new turn. There is a sense in ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Meaney: Ersatz Tyrants

3 May 2017
... matched the menace he described. If Trump really were on the road to dictatorship, as Snyder insists he is, one would expect a plan for stopping him at any cost. Instead of advising Americans to read MilanKundera 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 ...

Yellow Ribbons

Hal Foster: Kitsch in Bush’s America

7 July 2005
... concern about debasement pervades most accounts of the subject (it begins with art but hardly ends there). Kitsch has attracted – that is to say, repelled – novelists from Hermann Broch to MilanKundera 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 ...


Robert Walshe: Bumping into Beckett

7 November 1985
... thing rained down on me like a triad of peaches on a fruit-machine. I knew precisely what I had to do. I walked back home and did it, beginning at page 242. Lately I have begun crossing paths with MilanKundera, 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 ...

Get out

Julian Bell: Francis Bacon

19 October 2000
Looking back at Francis Bacon 
by David Sylvester.
Thames and Hudson, 272 pp., £29.95, June 2000, 0 500 01994 0
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... canvases brought out the poet in so many others. Abidingly Eurocentric, he was vastly gratified to have captured the imagination of literary Paris: Michel Leiris, Philippe Sollers, Gilles Deleuze and MilanKundera all produced high-flown testimonies to the stature of his work as a comment on the human predicament. Nearer home, the existential fervour surrounding the paintings was kept up by Lawrence ...

Coming out top

Paul Driver

8 September 1994
The Bartók Companion 
edited by Malcolm Gillies.
Faber, 586 pp., £35, February 1994, 0 571 15330 5
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... and simple, implying a moral responsibility to the material that echoes the platitudinous meaning of the phrase. Speaking of his addiction to seven-part novelistic structures in The Art of the Novel, MilanKundera insists that they don’t ‘represent some superstitious flirtation with magical numbers, or any rational calculation, but a deep, unconscious, incomprehensible drive, an archetype of form ...

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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...  notes and letters be part of a general, historical drift away from the novel?’ Given such a trend, he continues, might writers not be better off abandoning fiction altogether? He then quotes MilanKundera, 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 ...

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