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The Art of the Novel

The Art of the Novel

Written by Milan Kundera

Narrated by Graeme Malcolm


The Art of the Novel

Written by Milan Kundera

Narrated by Graeme Malcolm

ratings:
4.5/5 (26 ratings)
Length:
4 hours
Publisher:
Released:
Sep 25, 2012
ISBN:
9780062215611
Format:
Audiobook

Description

Kundera brilliantly examines the work of such important and diverse figures as Rabelais, Cervantes, Sterne, Diderot, Flaubert, Tolstoy, and Musil. He is especially penetrating on Hermann Broch, and his exploration of the world of Kafka's novels vividly reveals the comic terror of Kafka's bureaucratized universe.

Kundera's discussion of his own work includes his views on the role of historical events in fiction, the meaning of action, and the creation of character in the post-psychological novel.

Publisher:
Released:
Sep 25, 2012
ISBN:
9780062215611
Format:
Audiobook

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What people think about The Art of the Novel

4.3
26 ratings / 11 Reviews
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  • (3/5)
    What a wonderful day it has been. Cool and sunny, the weather welcomes with only a slim wink of menace behind such. I awoke early and after watching City i went and joined some friends for smoked wheat beer and colorful conversations about public vomiting and the peasant revolts during the Reformation. Oh and there was a parade. I didn't pay much attention to that.

    Returning home I watched Arsenal's triumph and enjoyed the weather and picked up this witty distillation. Zadie Smith's Changing My Mind had engendered this recent interest in essays, especially those concerning the history of the novel. I bought the volume in Camden when we went to London in 2004. I truly bought it for my wife but it certainly fit my own present situation. Kundera weaves together an intriguing portrait of modernity. He also sidesteps the English literary tradition aside from a handful of nods to Fielding and Sterne. Such is fine.

    Thinking about my own influences, I remain intrigued that Nietzsche remains so fixed and central and Kafka has slinked to the dark margins. Perhaps Hrabal (that usurper) took his place in my murky mindpool.
  • (4/5)
    This is a great book for anyone working to be a serious novelist. I like Kundera's approach though because he lets you know why it's important to be serious about writing. He knows from experience that everything you work for can be taken away in a moment.
  • (4/5)
    Highly intellectual book on history philosophy culture using modern novel
  • (5/5)

    1 person found this helpful

    Excellent reading and quality. I think Kundera himself would be proud of this.
    The book itself is one of the finest on this topic. Kundera is original and his gaze reveals dazling insights.

    1 person found this helpful

  • (4/5)

    1 person found this helpful

    This is a compendium of seven pieces that Kundera states "were written, published, or spoken before an audience between 1979 and 1985." "The sole raison d'ètre of a novel," he quotes Hermann Broch, "is to discover what only the novel can discover." Just having completed the first draft of my first completed novel (my drawers are lined with half-finished attempts), I eagerly read in anticipation of discovering the rules of writing The Great Novel. Not surprisingly, the rules are vague and sketchy. One of Kundera's favorite rule-breaking devices is something I am fond of—the rabbit trail, a blatant detour from the action of the story so that the author can indulge an itch to explore some political or psychological or spiritual thought that came to mind while a character is brushing his teeth or walking to work or making love. Kundera does not just discuss his own work and what motivates him, but delves also into comparative literature commentary. He looks at Cervantes, Flaubert, Rabelais, Sterne, and Diderot, among others. Kundera's mini course in the history and structure of the novel is engrossing, illuminating and thought-provoking—worth reading a few more times. (March 2009)

    1 person found this helpful

  • (4/5)

    1 person found this helpful

    Interesting, stimulating, and dogmatic -(as most critics seem driven to superlatives and ultimata) - this book is worth a go if you are into world literature, as you will surely meet with a different take on "What is European?" and "What is a novel?" Taken with a dash of salt and mined for its many insightful comments, this is a valuable addition to (not a substitute for) other studies in critical commentary. The Narrator does a good job of handling a difficult text.

    1 person found this helpful

  • (4/5)

    1 person found this helpful

    Kundera is always worth reading. And this book is no exception. The emphasis on the formal aspects of fiction in ''The Art of the Novel'' is a principle for Kundera that is accompanied by an overt disavowal of any political agenda. A second principle is derived from the first, and it is the rejection of kitsch. Not simply bad or laughable art, kitsch is, in Kundera's definition from ''Sixty-three Words'' (his dictionary of the terms and categories that organize his imagination), ''the need to gaze into the mirror of the beautifying lie and to be moved to tears of gratification at one's own reflection.'' One antidote to kitsch is to write novels according to Kundera's third principle - what he refers to throughout ''The Art of the Novel'' as ''novelistic counterpoint'' or ''polyphony.'' ''Counterpoint,'' or ''polyphony,'' is, strictly speaking, the play among different kinds of writing - essay, dream, narrative - in a single text. One can see examples of these principles in Kundera's own novels, but he uses examples from Cervantes to Kafka, Joyce, and Broch to make his case.

    1 person found this helpful

  • (5/5)

    1 person found this helpful

    This book has the property of timelessness, much like the "writing on writing" that is seen in Eric Auerbach and Kenneth Burke. However, it is in no way literary theory, nor is it, contrary to what some of the other reviewers seem to believe, "philosophical." It is a careful explication of the author's principles, not a grand theoretical schema. The instantiation of real human circumstances, ones deeply concerned with the problems entailed by Heidegger's in-der-Welt-sein, is what differentiates the novel from philosophy. It is nothing less and nothing more than a series of seven disquisitions on the historical development of the European novel."The Depreciated Legacy of Cervantes," serves to offer the substance for latter explication, meditation, and the occasional tangent. Its subject is the history and development of the European novel that is deeply rooted in existential concern. As Kundera says, "A novel that does not discover a hitherto unknown segment of existence is immoral." He is careful to delineate the novel's uniqueness as a historical artifact, and sees modernity as closely tied to the regnant existential themes as those explored by Joyce, Kafka, Sterne, Gombrowitz, and Broch (a somewhat epigrammatic essay on The Sleepwalkers is contained herein). But Kundera sees the inaugural journey into modernity as one that is essentially Cervantes'. Don Quixote enters a world that has seen the weakening influence of religious dogmatism. His experience contains none of the certitude of categorical absolutes that were so indicative of earlier existence (again, that desideratum for novelists).

    1 person found this helpful

  • (5/5)

    1 person found this helpful

    Collection of essays and interviews about Kundera's, and other, novels.These seven pieces (itself a nod to Kundera's repeated use of seven sections in his novels) consist of two interviews, an address on winning an award, three essays, and a dictionary, with meanings, of 63 words (which came about due to Kundera spending more time supervising translations of his novels rather than writing).The first essay, The Depreciated Legacy of Cervantes, is an impassioned defence of the Western novel from Cervantes on. ("Indeed, for me, the founder of the Modern Era is not only Descartes but also Cervantes." - "The novel is Europe's creation; its discoveries, though made in various languages, belong to the whole of Europe.". All writers in essence defend the novel (or poetry) that they himself write - hence Kundera's idea of the European novel is derived form Sterne, Kafka, Hasek, et al. The time was past when man had only the monster of his own soul to grapple with, the peaceful time of Joyce and Proust. In the novels of Kafka, Hasek, Musil, Broch, the monster comes from outside and is called History; it no longer has anything to do with the train the adventurers used to ride; it is impersonal, uncontrollable, incalculable, incomprehensible—and it is inescapable.He believes that it took a wrong turn and rejected many of its possibilities when it got tied down in the 19th century to realism and then psychology. The pivot of this change is Flaubert, this is an idea also developed by the critic James Wood, although Wood hasn't pinned it down so insightfully - The lost infinity of the outside world is replaced by the infinity of the soul. The great illusion of the irreplaceable uniqueness of the individual—one of Europe's finest illusions—blossoms forth.The novel then found its true modern form in the writers listed above (plus a few others like Gombrowicz); writers from Central Europe that found a new ways to approach it.As is inevitable, this essay also becomes about the death of the novel, especially in the light of totalitarianism -Thus the death of the novel is not just a fanciful idea. It has already happened. And we now know how the novel dies: it's not that it disappears; it falls away from its history. Its death occurs quietly, unnoticed, and no one is outraged.For Kundera there are four main appeals to the continuation of the novel -1. Play (Sterne) 2. Dream (Kafka)3. Thought (Broch or Musil)4. Time ("Europe looking back on its own past, weighing up its history like an old man seeing his whole life in a single moment") What is immediately apparent about this list is how much it resembles a breakdown of Kundera's approach to the novel - his novels are not one of description (his characters are rarely described) or psychology (his characters are rarely given any backstory) but ones that play with form, essays ('thought') mix with fiction, etc.In the end Kundera is worried that the novel is against the flow of the modern world -I merely believe I know that the novel cannot live in peace with the spirit of our time: if it is to go on discovering the undiscovered, to go on "progressing" as novel, it can do so only against the progress of the world.In essence all the themes of the book are raised in this first essay, the subsequent sections returning to the same ideas, exploring them from different angles and persepectives (the one weakness of the book, especially if read continuously is this repetition - paradoxically, this also gives the book the strength of a single continuous argument). The one place it temporarily breaks from this argument is when Kundera discusses, very interestingly, the influence of music on his novels (he is musically trained and before turning to words wrote 'classical' music).It is still full of thought-provoking stuff , from Dialogue on the Art of the Novel:Joyce analyzes something still more ungraspable than Proust's "lost time": the present moment. There would seem to be nothing more obvious, more tangible and palpable, than the present moment. And yet it eludes us completely. All the sadness of life lies in that fact.orA character is not a simulation of a living being. It is an imaginary being. An experimental self. In that way the novel reconnects with its beginnings. Don Quixote is practically unthinkable as a living being. And yet, in our memory, what character is more alive? Understand me, I don't mean to scorn the reader and his desire, as naive as it is legitimate, to be carried away by the novel's imaginary world and to confuse it occasionally with reality. But I don't see that the technique of psychological realism is indispensable for that.From Somewhere BehindIn the Kafkan world, the file takes on the role of a Platonic idea. It represents true reality, whereas man's physical existence is only a shadow cast on the screen of illusion. Indeed, both the Land-Surveyor K. and the Prague engineer are but the shadows of their file cards; and they are even much less than that: they are the shadows of a mistake in the file, shadows without even the right to exist as shadows.From Jerusalem Address: The Novel and Europe (and suitably the last words in the book)if European culture seems under threat today, if the threat from within and without hangs over what is most precious about it—its respect for the individual, for his original thought, and for his right to an inviolable private life—then, I believe, that precious essence of the European spirit is being held safe as in a treasure chest inside the history of the novel, the wisdom of the novel. It is that wisdom of the novel I wanted to honor in this speech of thanks. But it is time for me to stop. I was forgetting that God laughs when he sees me thinking.This is one of the best books I have read about the novel but I also realise that could be down to the fact I like the type of novels that Kundera is championing. It is therefore possible another reader could find Kundera completely wrong-headed, missing the point, the strengths, of the traditional novel. I doubt any reader, unless it is one who doesn't want to 'think' while reading, is going to be disappointed by this book. It will make you think about the novel anew.

    1 person found this helpful

  • (4/5)

    1 person found this helpful

    I now have a new appreciation of Milan Kundera's work - even though I already appreciated it a great deal anyway. This excellent collection of essays on the art of writing and being a writer gives a true insight into the creative act, without preaching a particular way of writing. I wish I was a good enough writer to be able to obey: the use of the novel is in doing what only a novel can do; yet so many of my short stories are trivial and do nothing in the search for enlightenment and the challenge to examine what has previously been unexamined.

    1 person found this helpful

  • (5/5)

    1 person found this helpful

    Much more descriptive (of Kundera's own fiction) than prescriptive, this remains an essential work in the Kunderan canon. I particularly enjoyed the "glossary" chapter which not only helps to outline major themes that run through his works but also echoes the "dictionary of misunderstood words" bits in The Unbearable Lightness of Being. Oh, to have my estranged copy returned to me!

    1 person found this helpful