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The 9 Oct New Yorker features an article by Milan Kundera called “What is a Novelist: How great writers are made”. And, um, I really, really hope it was written with tongue firmly in cheek cause otherwise these are the pearls of wisdom Mr Kundera offers:
To be a novelist you must tear away your lyrical chyrsalis.
We are always wearing make-up.
The novelist must tear through the curtain of pre-interpretation.
Girl characters are actually based on boy characters.
Readers don’t read novels they read themselves reading novels.
We must all embrace the Whole.
Beat your grandmother.
To which I can only say, “Innit!”1
Posted by Justine at 16:57, 3 October 2006 under Frippery, Reading, Words & Language | 14 Comments »
Jesus, who writes this pretentious shit?
October 3rd, 2006 at 5:11 PM
2. Justine Says:
Mr Kundera does. I’m sad there’s no link to the actual article. It has to be read to be believed.
Perhaps it really is a joke.
October 3rd, 2006 at 5:18 PM
Dave Schwartz Says:
I can’t say I’m surprised. I enjoyed Unbearable Lightness, but Immortality was nothing BUT wank.
October 3rd, 2006 at 5:26 PM
Christopher Barzak Says:
I can’t help but imagine it’s intentionally absurd. I mean, really. I don’t think Kundera would write, “Beat your grandmother,” and mean it. The rest also sounds suspiciously aimed at getting a chuckle.
I enjoyed The Unbearable Lightness of Being, too, but haven’t read Immortality yet, though Nathan Ballingrud just recommended it to me. I hope the wank isn’t too wanky. Err, you know what I mean.
October 4th, 2006 at 12:29 AM
my internet friend maciej has a healthy dislike of old kundera, and makes me giggle.
October 4th, 2006 at 3:46 AM
David Moles Says:
I dunno, I still think The Art of the Novel was pretty good.
Though I also think when Kundera says “novel” he means something a lot more specific than most of us do.
October 4th, 2006 at 4:48 AM
(Marrije, thanks for the link — hilarious! It’d be worth it for the “Also replaces” alone.)
October 4th, 2006 at 4:51 AM
david moles, maciej’s whole blog is great. i think he should write books – he sticks to this weird notion that he should paint in stead. silly man
October 4th, 2006 at 5:40 AM
9. Justine Says:
I adored Kundera when I was kid (slightly after my Flowers in the Attic stage). The book that did it for me was Life is Elsewhere which spoke to this Aussie girl who at the time wanted to be anywhere but Australia. It’s way better than Lightness or Immortality.
Chris: It’s either a joke that isn’t funny or it’s a wank. The article’s main sin is that it’s really really really boring as well as nonsensical. Just to be clear though what I wrote isn’t quotes but mocking paraphrase.
Marrije: That’s awesome! Tell your friend I must shake his hand.
Moles: Do me a favour and read the article then you’ll see what I mean. C’mon, I have a phd in semiotics it’s not like I am against profound thought on any number of topics, innit. This article reads like he got drunk and then just typed and thought it’d be a lark if he could get the New Yorker to publish his random typery.
When he says “novelist” he appears to mean a handful of dead white guys. Some of whom I admire excessively and yet not striking me as a very useful deployment of the term.
October 4th, 2006 at 9:03 AM
Wow. That sounds like the dumbest pile of wank I’ve never read. Thanks for the warning, Justine.
October 4th, 2006 at 7:17 PM
Hrm. Perhaps the same person who works the subtitle machine for Japanese monster movies moonlights as Kundera’s translator? If not, then I am truly bummed.
October 7th, 2006 at 1:23 AM
justine, i’ve just stumbled across your blog today. i thoroughly enjoy what i’ve read so far, though i do have to express rather stark disagreement with this post. you seem smarter than someone who would so simplify the thrust of kundera’s essay in order to mock it.
it seems to me kundera is merely presenting a type for the novelist. the age of 30 is simply a rather arbitrary age at which kundera feels authors are likely, having already hit a stride of sorts, outrun their lyric ideals. he is defining the novel as a medium through which authors discard a pre-interpreted view reality and install a fresh vantage point in its place. the reader is naturally forced by such writing to see the world in a new way, to see other people in a new way, and by extension see him/herself in a new way. surely this is not so much “wank” as you seem to think…
all silliness aside, do think about writing what you actually think about the essay, because you cannot possibly believe that kundera wants anyone to beat their grandmother
all that aside, i honestly love the humor in your writing – you’ve got a style the intelligence of which much of what one finds in the blogosphere does not begin to attain. i will certainly be back here again.
October 9th, 2006 at 12:21 PM
13. Justine Says:
Matthew: I’m very pleased you’re enjoying my blog. Music to my ears.
We’re going to have to agree to not agree on the Kundera piece though. Yes, I’m aware he’s not advocating grandmother beating, but that piece was no more coherent nor less banal than my parody of it. I read it a bunch of times and it did not improve on re-reading. I’m still hoping it was a joke or a bad translation.
Fortunately, I don’t hold bad critical writing against primarily fiction writers (or vice versa). If I did I’d have to stop reading some of my favourite novelists. (Nope, I’m not going to name them!) Life is Elsewhere will always be important to me.
October 9th, 2006 at 8:45 PM
“We’re going to have to agree to not agree on the Kundera piece though.”
sounds like a plan, stan.
seriously, keep up the wonderfully sharp posting, justine. you do that, and i’ll try to always wear something presentable when i read your blog
October 10th, 2006 at 11:18 AM
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