An all Windswept Bones review..
Milan Kundera?s forth published book, 1978?s The Book of Laughter and Forgetting
is or is not a novel..
This and his The Unbearable Lightness of Being
are considered his major works, of his ten published books of fiction. He has authored drama, poetry and most noteworthy many books of essays. His last published novel was Ignorance
Philip Roth ( who became a friend of Kundera?s) helped introduce his works to US readers in the late 70?s in Penguins awesome ?Voices From the Other Europe? series which Roth edited. From this great series I was introduced to Bruno Schulz, Danilo Ki? , and Bohumil Hrabal. I had read Kundera?s The Farewell Party
(now re-translated as The Farewell Waltz
) and The Joke
The backdrop for our ?novel? up for review here is primarily the events just before and after the 1968 Prague Spring. We already notice something is a bit different by Part 1, entitled, Mama
: when we find four of the nineteen numbered sections are author asides, essay-observations of events and the political micro-climate surrounding the characters in the narrative. Later, even more strangely, the Kundera stand-in narrator sits next to us (without introduction) and ask us what we think about character?s feelings of shame toward each other. But he doesn?t really direct his question to us, its more voicing his thoughts out loud as a story teller to himself as he works out the direction the story will take. As each Section closes with the end of that story and new characters and story are introduced in the next part it becomes evident that we are being taken gradually further and further away from the confines of the familiar form in each succeeding part. The pattern of intertwined authorial essays on political and historical philosophy continues throughout all seven parts and expands the book?s axis into realms where ?novels? customarily don?t tread form wise.
Try as I might to avoid reading novels that aspire to be literature like one would pack undersized luggage, I often still find myself trying to cram my preconceived notions of what a novel should be into my figurative ?traditional novel definition? carry-on bag. Didn?t James famously call the novel that ?loose baggy monster?? From Lawrence Sterne and Dennis Diderot I should have learned to leave such reader?s prejudices behind altogether