Encounter: Essays

Encounter: Essays

by Milan Kundera
     
 

Encounter is the latest addition to the acclaimed body of literary criticism from beloved author Milan Kundera (The Unbearable Lightness of Being, The Book of Laughter and Forgetting). Novelist Russell Banks writes, “Not since Henry James, perhaps, has a fiction writer examined the process of writing with such insight, authority, and range of

Overview

Encounter is the latest addition to the acclaimed body of literary criticism from beloved author Milan Kundera (The Unbearable Lightness of Being, The Book of Laughter and Forgetting). Novelist Russell Banks writes, “Not since Henry James, perhaps, has a fiction writer examined the process of writing with such insight, authority, and range of reference and allusion.” In Encounter, Kundera brilliantly reflects on some of his signature themes and old loves (Rabelais, Fellini, Janacek, Malaparte), on literature, on morality, and on the transformation of civilization as we know it.

Editorial Reviews

Phillip Lopate
“Cultivated, worldly, charming and spirited…Kundera’s values are sane and humane; his impulses generous; his taste, overall, unimpeachable.”
Michael S. Roth
“A commanding, compelling collection…Kundera’s essays express enduring aesthetic loyalties and provide unexpected aesthetic sparks that remind readers of a fuller range of authentic thought and feeling.”
Boston Sunday Globe
“Compelling essays.”
Time Out New York
“Deeply personal and warmly inviting…Encounter serves as a call to arms for a culture on the verge of losing its artistic credibility.”
New York Journal of Books
“A remarkable collection that showcases the author’s diverse interests and sparkling talent…Kundera looks at the way exile and estrangement impact upon art and creation.”
John Simon
“I can’t imagine reading this book without being challenged and instructed, amused, amazed and aroused, and ultimately delighted.”
Publishers Weekly
These mercurial occasional pieces crackle in their soulful brevity. Kundera's (Immortality) unexpected insights into surrealism (especially the poets), the darkly grotesque, the nonconformist temperament will be familiar to readers immersed in this author's fictions. Although a number of the essays date to the early and mid-1990s, there is a refreshing cohesion to this collection. Of specific interest are chapters comparing Francis Bacon to Samuel Beckett; Kundera's devilish mixing up of Roland Barthes with the dour theologian Karl Barth in a chance conversation; several discussions on the virtues of Rabelais as well as a restoration to prominence of Anatole France, who had been given the French intellectualist bum's rush; a powerful coupling of the bright birth of film with the sad death of Fellini; a scholar's relishing of Bertolt Brecht's body odor; the music of his fellow Czech Leos Janácek. Like the proverbial meal at the Chinese restaurant, the delicious musings of this book are filling at first. Two hours later, one craves more. (Sept.)
Kirkus Reviews
A collection of essays, book, music and art reviews, ruminations and recollections by the celebrated Franco-Czech novelist (Ignorance, 2002, etc.). Kundera's mind is an expansive forest, and he visits many trees in these pieces, some more than a dozen years old. In some cases he writes about painters, musicians and novelists whose names and works are widely known (Celine, Philip Roth, Beethoven, Breton). Elsewhere, he expatiates about the creations of artists whose identities are known principally by the cognoscenti, companions and countrymen. The latter include the music of Iannis Xenakis, the paintings of Ernest Breleur and the writings of Danilo Kis. Regardless of the subject, Kundera's prose glows, sometimes in sufficient strength to illuminate even the most obscure of his subjects. The pieces all share a compression of style-his few words say much-and even some experimentation. In an essay on painter Francis Bacon, for example, he alternates 1995 observations with what he had written initially in 1977. (He employs a similar strategy later in a piece about Xenakis' music.) Kundera writes with passion about what he views as the foolishness of surrendering a friendship to political differences, and he snarls about the deleterious influence of film and television in a piece about the 100th anniversary of the motion picture, which he labels "the principal agent of stupidity" in the world. The author marvels about the Allied occupation forces after World War II, especially the Americans, who seemed so sublimely confident in their divine election and sanction. Continually, he revisits the hopeful Prague spring of 1968 and its hideous aftermath and agrees with Czech writer Vera Linhartova, who wrote how exile can be transformative for an artist. He chides biographers who are enraptured with the sex lives, and even body odors, of their subjects, and he wonders about the artistic portrayal of the ugly. Shows that bright shards of clear prose can serve as windows into the unknown.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780061894435
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
10/04/2011
Pages:
192
Sales rank:
1,149,753
Product dimensions:
5.20(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.70(d)

What People are saying about this

John Simon
“I can’t imagine reading this book without being challenged and instructed, amused, amazed and aroused, and ultimately delighted.”
Michael S. Roth
“A commanding, compelling collection…Kundera’s essays express enduring aesthetic loyalties and provide unexpected aesthetic sparks that remind readers of a fuller range of authentic thought and feeling.”
Phillip Lopate
“Cultivated, worldly, charming and spirited…Kundera’s values are sane and humane; his impulses generous; his taste, overall, unimpeachable.”

Meet the Author

Milan Kundera is the author of the novels The Joke, Farewell Waltz, Life Is Elsewhere, The Book of Laughter and Forgetting, The Unbearable Lightness of Being, and Immortality, and the short-story collection Laughable Loves—all originally written in Czech. His most recent novels Slowness, Identity, and Ignorance, as well as his nonfiction works The Art of the Novel, Testaments Betrayed, The Curtain, and Encounter, were originally written in French.

Brief Biography

Hometown:
Paris, France
Date of Birth:
April 1, 1929
Place of Birth:
Brno, Czechoslovakia
Education:
Undergraduate degree in philosophy, Charles University, Prague, 1952

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