The Null Device

The unbearable mediocrity of...

Milan Kundera's The Unbearable Lightness of Being, a story of bohemian, intellectual bootywhang in Communist Prague, has acquired a reputation as a standard seduction prop. Though, according to Maciej Ceglowski, it is a very mediocre book; the literary equivalent of one of those high-concept Working Title films that purports to be sophisticated art-house fare for people who like the aura of intellectuality without the arduous chore of being made to think (or, for that matter, read subtitles):
Milan Kundera is the Dave Matthews of Slavic letters, a talented hack, certainly a hack who's paid his dues, but a hack nonetheless. And by his own admission, this is his worst book. If you strip off the exoticism of Brezhnev-era Czechoslovakia (this rinses off easily in soapy water), you are left with a book full of vapid characters bouncing against each other like little perfectly elastic balls of condensed ego. And every twenty pages the story steps outside for a cigarette so that the author can deliver a short philosophical homily. Kundera has a sterile, cleanroom writing style meant to suggest that he is a surgeon expertly dissecting the human condition before your eyes, but if you look a little more closely, you see he's just performing an autopsy on a mannequin. Or more accurately, a RealDoll.
Ceglowski goes on to recommend a set of books by Slavic authors much better than Kundera, and rate their date-impressing potential. He's right on the money for The Master and Margarita (in terms of it being a cracking good read, at least), and I get the feeling that I'm going to have to read Adventures of the Good Soldier Svejk.

There are 3 comments on "The unbearable mediocrity of...":

Posted by: datakid http:// Thu Nov 17 08:36:37 2005

which I have sitting by my bed, unread - I should read it, but you know how it is...

plus, the fact that it is unfinished doesn't help...

Posted by: a friend http:// Thu Nov 17 17:35:47 2005

The Good Soldier stories are absolutely fantastic, and the precursor to Catch 22. The Master is also a cracking read. Enjoy!

Posted by: steff http://ofterdingenandkropotkin.blogspot.com Sun Nov 20 00:34:49 2005

Oh how I hate Kundera's vapid stuff. Fun rant above. cheers

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