When I was very young and just beginning to turn to serious literature I fell, somehow, into the embrace of Milan Kundera’s work, and specifically his early writing. Kundera, along with Pynchon, Joyce, García Márquez and (Phillip) Roth, were my early touchstone writers, the writers who encouraged me to leave behind fantasy literature and try something different. I read five or six Kundera books within the space of a few months, and then – and then –
Years passed. I didn’t read him at all. I read the others, more or less, but never Kundera. And then, every year or so, I’d read one book of his, just one, often a slim one, and I’d like it, but I was never encouraged to go back and read his larger works. I’ve read The Unbearable Lightness of Being only twice. I’ve read Immortality once, and I know I’ll never read it again. His novellas I have read a couple of times.
And then a few more years pass, Kundera turns 80, the years grind on, and The Festival of Ignorance arrives. I didn’t buy it. I borrowed it from the library early this year, and read it in about an hour. It’s short, the text is very large, and it’s light – even for Kundera. Old men wander around looking at younger women, and the absurdity of human sexuality is examined through a slight refraction of Cold War sensibilities. It’s very Kundera. It’s very of it’s time (read: 40 years ago). It was published in recent times.
It’s a bit of an oddity. I am not particularly interested in recommending it, but it’s not bad. I liked it, but I have forgotten most everything about it. The themes are examined in more detail and with greater sensitivity, understanding and humour in his other novels. But it’s a nice little thing, and acts as a fine capstone to a long and worthwhile career. And if there’s another novel knocking about in Kundera’s mind that we still might see before he passes away? Well, great!
The Books, Read page contains a list of all of the books I have read over the years.