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The Art of the Novel


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The Art of the Novel by Milan Kundera - author of The Unbearable Lightness of Being - is a classic of literary criticism from one of the world's greatest novelists.

About the Author

Milan Kundera, born in Brno, Czechoslovakia, was a student when the Czech Communist regime was established in 1948, and later worked as a labourer, jazz musician and professor at the Institute for Advanced Cinematographic Studies in Prague. After the Russian invasion in August 1968, his books were proscribed. In 1975, he and his wife settled in France, and in 1981, he became a French citizen. He is the author of the novels The Joke, Life is Elsewhere, Farewell Waltz, The Book of Laughter and Forgetting, The Unbearable Lightness of Being, and Immortality, and of the short-story collection Laughable Loves - all originally in Czech. His most recent novels, Slowness, Identity and Ignorance, as well as his non-fiction works The Art of the Novel and Testaments Betrayed, were originally written in French.


A novelist who writes eloquently about the wrenching dislocations of history, Kundera explains that his fictions use historical circumstances only to thrust his characters into a ``revelatory existential situation.'' The Czech writer (The Joke, Laughable Loves) draws lessons from Cervantes, who saw the world as a welter of contradictory truths, and from Kafka, who recognized that pure irrationality held center stage. In essays and dialogues, he discusses novelists whose works are sorely neglected (Broch, Diderot) and more familiar writers like Tolstoy, Flaubert, Musil and Sterne. He presents a 62-word glossary of key words to aid readers of his own novels (``Betrayal . . . Breaking ranks and going off into the unknown''). His strikingly original reflections crystallize his conviction that the modern novelist's greatest asset is the wisdom of uncertainty. (March)

Kundera's first nonfiction book alternates between passionately intelligent reflections on some of the novelists most important to himCervantes, Broch, and Kafkaand on his own challenging and important work. Although the Czech author's own fiction better proves his argument that the novel is far from dead (where there is no censorship), this book is very useful for understanding his works as continuing a Central European and international tradition. He is so dedicated to his art form that he evaluates contemporary culture on the basis of how well it supports the modern novel. The reader is left with a renewed appreciation of the form. For all literature collections.Ethan Bumas, formerly with the New Sch. for Social Research, New York

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