Milan Kundera was born in Brno, Czechoslovakia (Now the Czech Republic) in 1929. As a young man, he studied musical composition and musicology. He then went on to study literature and aesthetics at the Charles University in Prague, and, finally, transferred to the Film Faculty of the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague where he studied script writing and film direction.
Musicological influences and references can be found throughout much of Kundera’s work, as can the influence of his homeland, Czechoslovakia. Though he moved to France in 1975, the people and culture of the Czech Republic would continue to play a large role in his literary works, even after he became a French citizen in 1981.
In Encounter Kundera discusses the works of famous writers, musicians, and painters such as Francis Bacon, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Ludwig van Beethoven, François Rabelais, and Arnold Schoenberg.
In section IX he writes of the stylistic changes which began to emerge in new novels during the twentieth century:
“In the nineteenth century, it was taken for granted: whatever happened in a novel had to be plausible. In the twentieth century, this rule lost its force; from Kafka to Carpentier or García Márquez, novelists grew increasingly sensitive to the poetry of the improbable.”
Encounter is a collection of essays which defend art in an era which, Kundera argues, no longer values art. The writing style combines reflection and criticism with many of Kundera’s signature themes and, though it is a nonfiction work, it is sprinkled with stories and personal reflections which make it nearly as compelling as one of the author’s novels.
He writes of the moon in Breleur’s paintings as follows:
“The moon, crescent-shaped, lies horizontally with the two tips pointed up, like a gondola floating on the swells of the night. This is not the painter’s fantasy, it’s how the moon actually is in Martinique.”
The author’s arguments and critiques are presented in a clear manner which compels the reader to consider art in a new light. The collection of essays which comprise Encounter are reflective, thought-provoking, and make for an excellent read.
You can purchase a copy of Encounter here.
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