The Curtain, Milan Kundera

April 22, 2007

I completed The Curtain this weekend, as well as Bouvard and Pecuchet by Flaubert, which I will write about later. The Curtain was not only entertaining, but thought-provoking, and has sent me in search of his earlier book, The Art of the Novel.

Kundera writes about the novelist, and primarily the novel and its history, expanding at times to include the arts in general. His framework for the discussions include aspects of the context of the novel- within the history of a small nation as opposed to its place in world literature- (would the world even know of Kafka if he had written in the Czech language?).

When discussing the novelist, Kundera points to Cervantes as the example of the true novelist. In the paragraph which led to the title of the book, he writes-

“A magic curtain, woven of legends, hung before the world. Cervantes send Don Quixote journeying and tore through the curtain. The world opened before the knight errant in all the comical nakedness of its prose.”

Kundera uses much of the world’s best literature to make his points. He does not see the novel as entertainment, but as a vehicle for the author to reveal not only an aspect of the world to the reader, but to reveal the reader to himself. He makes me want to read some of those books that I’ve avoided because they appear daunting. (Musil’s The Man Without Qualities for example. Kundera makes me want to reread those masterpieces that I have already read.

I love the way the book ends (I don’t think this will ruin it for anyone- it’s not that type of book)

“In anguish I imagine a time when art shall cease to seek out the never-said and will go docilely back into the service of the collective life that requires it to render repetition beautiful and help the individual merge, at peace and with joy, into the uniformity of being.
For the history of art is perishable. The babble of art is eternal.”

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3 Responses to “The Curtain, Milan Kundera”

  1. JCR Says:

    Sounds like something Beckett would do… or Paul Auster in his latest “Travels in the Scriptorium.”

  2. Dorothy W. Says:

    This book does sound good — I may have to check it out one of these days.

  3. Stefanie Says:

    I wish this had been at the bookstore when I was looking for it. I’ve read The Art of the Novel and it is very good, though I found myself wanting to argue with Kundera’s very strong opinions sometimes.


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