Saturday, March 03, 2007

What's a novel, Kundera rips The Curtain

By John Cheeran
Dear Ms Kiran Desai, I had the misfortune of buying and reading your Booker Prize winning book, The Inheritance of the Loss.
You can read my review of it elsewhere in this blog.
This is a request, in case you are planning to write to another novel. Please get a copy of Milan Kundera’s new book, The Curtain: An Essay in Seven Parts, published by HarperCollins.
Kundera will give you a fair idea of what should qualify as a novel.
The novel is not the authors’ confession,” Kundera had written in the Unbearable Lightness of Being. “It is an investigation of human life in the trap the world has become.”
In his new essay, The Curtain, Kundera takes the idea forward. He believes any novelist worthy of the name is obligated to tear through the curtain of pre-interpretation.
“The novel’s sole morality is knowledge; a novel that fails to reveal some hitherto unknown bit of existence is immoral.”
Kundera writes “To write without having a megalomaniac ambition to survive one’s death is cynicism. A mediocre plumber may be useful to people, but a mediocre novelist who consciously produces books that are ephemeral, commonplace, conventional – thus not useful, thus burdensome, thus noxious – is contemptible.”
And Kiran, you would do well to listen when Kundera says “ I have always tried to get into the soul of things.”

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