Testaments Betrayed
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Testaments Betrayed

  • Paperback
By (author) Milan Kundera , Translated by Linda Asher

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Kundera's essay has been written like a novel. In the course of nine separate sections, the same characters meet and cross paths with each other. Stravinsky and Kafka with their odd friends Ansermet and Brod; Hemingway with his biographer; Janacek with his little nation; and Rabelais with his heirs - the great novelists. In the light of their wisdom this book examines some of the great situations of our time. The moral trial of the twentieth century's art, from Celine to Mayakovsky; the passage of time which blurs the boundaries between the 'I' of the present day and the 'I' of the past; modesty as an essential concept in an age based on the individual and indiscretion which, as it becomes the habit and the norm, heralds the twilight of individualism; the testaments, the betrayed testaments - of Europe, of art, of the art of the novel and of artists.

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  • Paperback | 288 pages
  • 124 x 196 x 22mm | 199.58g
  • 03 Jan 1998
  • FABER & FABER
  • London
  • Main
  • 0571173373
  • 9780571173372
  • 196,980

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Author Information

The French-Czech novelist Milan Kundera was born in the Czech Republic and has lived in France since 1975. He is the author of the internationally acclaimed and bestselling novels The Joke, Life is Elsewhere, The Farewell Waltz, The Book of Laughter and Forgetting, The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Immortality, and the short-story collection Laughable Loves -- all originally in Czech. His more 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.

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Review text

Like a literary knight errant, Czech novelist Kundera (The Unbearable Lightness of Being, 1984; Immortality, 1991; etc.) rescues the novel, admired novelists, and composers from the distortions and betrayals of critics, translators, and friends while simultaneously offering provocative insights into the musical and literary arts. The essay, like the musical compositions Kundera discusses, is divided into complementary parts, in this case, nine. And within these divisions, writers and composers appear and reappear like characters in a novel who strut their stuff and endure the perfidy of friend and foe before taking their allotted place in Kundera's pantheon of seminal artists - a pantheon that, given Kundera's background, is Eurocentric, though Hemingway, Salman Rushdie, and Garcia Marquez are included. But the writers that primarily preoccupy him are Rabelais, who wrote one of the first novels because "he created a realm where moral judgment is suspended" and introduced what Octavio Paz called "the greatest invention of the modern spirit," humor; and Kafka, who, while showing "that it's possible to write another way . . . to both apprehend it [the real world] and at the same time engage in an enchanting game of fantasy," has been ill-served by translators and biographers. Kundera also vigorously defends Stravinsky, whose detractors accusr him of"poverty of heart" but didn't themselves "have heart enough to understand the wounded feelings that lay behind his vagabondage through the history of music"; and composer Leos Janacek, though disdained for his innovative "expressive clarity," is perhaps, Kundera contends, Czechoslovakia's greatest artist. A wide and engagingly erudite plea for keeping the faith and honoring the wishes of the illustrious dead, rather than insisting on our own self-serving agendas. Vintage Kundera. (Kirkus Reviews)

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