The Art of the Novel (Perennial Classics)
Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub
Kundera brilliantly examines the work of such important and diverse figures as Rabelais, Cervantes, Sterne, Diderot, Flaubert, Tolstoy, and Musil. He is especially penetrating on Hermann Broch, and his exploration of the world of Kafka's novels vividly reveals the comic terror of Kafka's bureaucratized universe.
Kundera's discussion of his own work includes his views on the role of historical events in fiction, the meaning of action, and the creation of character in the post-psychological novel.
cold of a future in which there will be nothing left to respect. Pasenow's story culminates on his wedding night. His wife, Elisabeth, does not love him. He sees nothing ahead but a future of lovelessness. He lies down beside her without undressing. That "twisted his uniform a little, the coat skirts fell open and revealed the front of his black trousers, but as soon as Joachim noticed, he hastily set things right again and covered the place. He had drawn up his legs, and so as not to touch the
facing reality as a concrete thing. Before their eyes everything turns into a symbol (Elisabeth the symbol of familial serenity, Bertrand the symbol of hell), and it is to symbols they are reacting when they believe they are acting upon reality. Broch shows us that it is the system of con-fusions, the system of symbolic thought, that underlies all behavior, individual as well as collective. We need only examine our own lives to see how much this irrational system, far more than any reasoned
essential has the right to exist. Roughly the same idea applies to the novel: it too is weighed down by "technique," by the conventions that do the author's work for him: present a character, describe a milieu, bring the action into a historical situation, fill time in the characters' lives with superfluous episodes; each shift of scene calls for new exposition, description, explanation. My own imperative is "Janacekian": to rid the novel of the automatism of novelistic technique, of
literature set up demands a novel could never meet? M.K.: Polyphony in music is the simultaneous presentation of two or more voices (melodic lines) that are perfectly bound together but still keep their relative independence. And polyphony in the novel? First let's set out its opposite: unilinear composition. Now, since its very beginnings, the novel has always tried to escape the unilinear, to open rifts in the continuous narration of a story. Cervantes tells the story of Don Quixote's journey,
century invented the locomotive, and Hegel was convinced he had grasped the very spirit of universal history. But Flaubert discovered stupidity. I daresay that is the greatest discovery of a century so proud of its scientific thought. Of course, even before Flaubert, people knew stupidity existed, but they understood it somewhat differently: it was considered a simple absence of knowledge, a defect correctable by education. In Flaubert's novels, stupidity is an inseparable dimension of human