Milan Kundera III

We lived, I and Lucie, in a devastated world; and because we did not know how to commiserate with the devastated things, we turned away from them and so injured them, and ourselves as well. (313)

“If the mountains were paper and the oceans ink, / If the stars were scribes, and all the world could think, / Not all their words upon words, in the event, / Could come to the end of my love’s testament,” sang Jaroslav with the violin still at his chest, and I felt happy inside these songs (inside the glass cabin of these songs) where sorrow is not lightness, laughter is not grimace…and it seemed to me that inside these songs I was at home…and if I had betrayed this home, I had only made it all the more my home…but I was equally aware…that what we were singing and playing were only memories, recollections…and I felt the ground of this home sinking under my feet, felt myself falling…falling down into the depths of years, into the fathomless depths, and I told myself with astonishment that my only home was this descent, this searching, eager fall, and I abandoned myself to it and to my sweet vertigo. (315-16)

–Milan Kundera, The Joke (New York: HarperCollins, 1992).

I quite liked this novel, for reasons I am sure critics better versed than I have already discussed. A different comment is that the world of this text was to me foreign in many ways, not only because it is from an unfamiliar land but because the text is so…macho, I want to say. My unscientific intuition is that even novels of the Mexican Revolution do not speak from inside such a machista world with no exterior. Kundera’s men are soulful and wronged, it is true. Still it seems to me that they react to the world in ways only the entitled can.


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