The Curtain: An Essay in Seven Parts
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The Curtain: An Essay in Seven Parts

3.96 of 5 stars 3.96  ·  rating details  ·  1,123 ratings  ·  102 reviews
"A magic curtain, woven of legends, hung before the world. Cervantes sent Don Quixote journeying and tore through the curtain. The world opened before the knight-errant in all the comical nakedness of its prose."

In this thought-provoking, endlessly enlightening, and entertaining essay on the art of the novel, renowned author Milan Kundera suggests that "the curtain" repr

Hardcover, 176 pages
Published January 30th 2007 by Harper (first published 2005)
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Ben Winch
Lately I've been reading a lot about the craft of fiction - James Wood's How Fiction Works, Paris Review interviews, even Stephen King's On Writing - but this is something different, not so much about craft as philosophy, and as original and insightful as pretty much anything I've read on subject of the novel. Here is Kundera talking about Goethe's concept of Die Weltliteratur (World Literature):
For, open any textbook, any anthology: world literature is always presented as a juxtaposition of nat
Max Karpovets
взагалі читати Мілана Кундеру можу всього. є у нього слабші речі (скажімо, перший його роман "Жарт"), а є просто геніальні - практично всі після "Нестерпної легкості буття" (дивно, що перейшовши на мову країни, що породила в принципі оформлену і зшиту дорогу роману, Кундера наче знаходить правильне дихання, відкриває приховані шляхи і дороги). однак крім Кундери-романіста є ще Кундера-есеїст, який задає теж високу планку не тільки для письменників, але й для філософів, культурологів, антропологі...more
Shweta Ganesh Kumar
A must read for any writer who is serious about the craft of writing and about the history of the novel in particular.
So wonderfully written, that I dare not even attempt a review.

In the curtain, Milan Kundera talks about the rules novelists have traditionally followed to create their masterpieces. And then he talks about how important it is to break these very rules.

He talks about the continuity of consciousness that gives context to every work of fiction.
Milan Kundera says that many a time...more
Apr 23, 2008 Jamie rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: life-long learners. :)
Oh I feel smarter for having read it, but I've got to be honest, it's much too...(sad to say) French-oriented. Not that I don't love France--I do. And not that I don't feel a certain interior pleasure for knowing what he's talking about: I love Ionesco, Balzac, Camus. Heck, even his "foreign" books are on my radar...The Metamorphosis. And it's a fun read, as essay often are--they're nice little coffee talks, dinner party conversations, etc. The problem is, he warns against this sort of behavior,...more
Milan Kundera's essay draws the curtain back to reveal the treasures of "die Weltliteratur" as he traces the threads of continuity in novels by Rabelais, Cervantes, Fielding, Dostoevsky, Kafka and many more. He eschews the cultural "isms" that weigh down our understanding of literature.
Although a work of non-fiction, The Curtain is a beautiful exposition on aesthetics as it is applied not only to literature, but to music as well. Kundera tells us to read and re-read with new eyes, unfettered by...more
Almost twenty years ago I read The Book of Laughter and Forgetting, then the Unbearable Lightness of Being (before the movie), The Joke and Life is Elsewhere. Then I lost track of the impressionable Czech author. In fact I can still remember his opening scene of the Book of Laughter and Forgetting where the Communist leader giving his hat to the Czech leader and when the leader fell from grace, how he was removed from the photos (in 1948 way before Photoshop). That scene where history was remove...more
Ryan Louis
In every way that I could, I loved this collection of essays. I tried to love it all, but "The Curtain" is the perfect example of how a person, skilled at using language to tell stories, falls terribly victim to language when talking ABOUT stories.

Kundera, who most remember for "The Unbearable Lightness of Being," discusses the novel in his new book: what it is, how it comes to be, what it aims to express. In moments of brilliance, he situates the scope of novel-writing into revolution, peace, p...more
I picked it up because it looked interesting: lifting the veil from literature to more clearly see ourselves and others through prose.

I, however, have little tolerance for self-gratifying bullshit. When Kundera said that well, hey, the light bulb was a neat invention, but anyone could have done it if Edison hadn't, science is easy, but art--especially literature and in particular the novel--is hard and it took true genius to throw off the oppression of thousands of years of poetry to get to pros...more
Bookmarks Magazine

Milan Kundera states that the novelist's primary goal "is not to do something better than his predecessors but to see what they did not see, say what they did not say." Ironically, many critics observed that Kundera covers much the same ground as he did in The Art of the Novel (1986) and Testaments Betrayed (1995), though they also mentioned that his views have softened somewhat toward authors and trends he had previously condemned. Most reviewers found his writing clear and accessible despite i

Defying D
I've finished this February 2013 but too busy to write a review. I like Milan Kundera!
The Curtain was not only entertaining but thought provoking.
“The Curtain” is at once a wonderfully digressive tour through four centuries of literary history and an incomplete but compelling attempt at a philosophical opus. Through both of those themes, one idea dominates: an abiding belief, almost religious in its intensity, that the novel is a profoundly subversive tool for understanding reality, and that the...more
Binary Press
Kundera analyzes the novel in his second of three books of essays on the art of the novel. The Curtain is wedged in between "Encounters" and "The Art of the Novel." All three are excellent and thought provoking.

Why do we read and write novels? One answer propounded by Kundera is from Flaubert: "I have always done my utmost to get into the soul of things." Kundera sees the novel as a unique art form that allows us to access the world through its own unique doorway. For the unique morality of the...more
Ko ti knjiga pride v roko nekako po pomoti, ne izpolni tvojih pričakovanj zablodelega bralca in jo zato razočaran odložiš, potem pa ob neki priložnosti spet vzameš v roko in začneš brati nekje na sredini, nakar ugotoviš, za kaj gre in se je lotiš od začetka do konca, gre kaj lahko za Kunderov Zastor. Ta te nagradi z mnogimi razmisleki, drobci iz knjig, ki si jih prebral, in te napeljuje k branju drugih romanov drugih avtorjev. Zdaj vem, zakaj bom naposled vzel v roke Dona Kihota. In nekaj drugih...more
Jul 02, 2007 Yi rated it 5 of 5 stars
Shelves: kundera
It's almost impossible to review a Kundera book, fiction or non-fiction. Through digression after digression, the ideas of Central European identity, history of the novel, history of art, literary provincialism... are woven into a narrative that reads like a novel rather than an essay. Pretty amazing.
Farhan Khalid
In inventing his novel the novelist discovers an aspect of "human nature" till then unknown, concealed

Characters in novels do not need to be admired for their virtues. They need to be understood, and that is a completely different matter

Each little event, as it becomes the past, loses its concrete nature and turns into an outline

The true face of life, of the prose of life, is found only in the present moment

But how to recount past events and give them back the presentness they've lost

The ninetee...more
Jean Tessier
I love reading Kundera. He opens my mind to the arts and makes me want to know so much more. This book is no different.

In this essay, Kundera explores further the nature of his art form: the novel. He starts with an interesting idea that nothing happens in a vacuum and that art pieces take their value from their place in a continuum. If a composer, today, wrote a piece exactly like Beethoven, it would be worthless. The same piece, written in the days of Beethoven, would be a masterpiece. The mus...more
Jack Granath
The Curtain is another book of essays, in seven parts, on the novel. Like Kundera's 1986 seven-parter, The Art of the Novel, it argues that novels can contain a knowledge of human nature not accessible through other media and that the history of the novel traces fundamental changes of our being.

These books are brilliant and strange. Kundera airs an obsession (unchanged, apparently, over these twenty years) with a narrow set of writers who illustrate his thesis. He proceeds as though we should b...more
Patrick McCoy
There’s something about the way Milan Kundera writes about literature that I find really appealing. I really enjoyed his first two volumes of literary criticism, The Art of the Novel and Testaments Betrayed. I think it has to do with his love of literature comes out through his writing. This can also be said of his latest work of nonfiction, The Curtain, which I recently read. I was turned onto Flaubert by Kundera and in his latest he praised Dangerous Liaisons by Choderlos De Laclos, which I bo...more
"Et nous, en Europe, qui sommes-nous?

Je pense à la phrase que Friedrich Schlegel a écrite dans les dernières années du XVIIIe siècle: 'La Révolution française, Wilhelm Meister de Goethe et Wissenschaftslehre de Fichte sont les plus grandes tendances de notre époque (die grössten Tendenzen des Zeitalters).' Mettre un roman et un livre de philosophie sur le même plan qu'un immense événement politique, c'était cela, l'Europe; celle née avec Descartes et Cervantes: l'Europe des Temps mo...more
Kent Winward
Kundera analyzes the novel in his second of three books of essays on the art of the novel. The Curtain is wedged in between "Encounters" and "The Art of the Novel." All three are excellent and thought provoking.

Why do we read and write novels? One answer propounded by Kundera is from Flaubert: "I have always done my utmost to get into the soul of things." Kundera sees the novel as a unique art form that allows us to access the world through its own unique doorway. For the unique morality of the...more
Mar 21, 2007 Lizzie is currently reading it
"The content of lyric poetry, Hegel says, is the poet himself; he gives voice to his inner world so as to stir in his audience the feelings, the states of mind he experiences. And even if the poet treats 'objective' themes, external to his own life, 'the great lyric poet will very quickly move away from them and end up drawing the portrait of himself.' . . . the notion of lyricism is not limited to a branch of literature (lyric poetry) but, rather, designates a certain way of being, and, from th...more
The Curtain is an essay in seven parts about the history and value of the novel as an art form, and the role of the novelist. The size of the book is deceptive, and in 168 pages the author covers Rabelais, Tolstoy, Flaubert, Gombrowicz, Cervantes, Kafka, and a multitude of other giants of the Western literary canon.

I made the mistake of making this my commute reading, which it definitely is not, or should not have been. The book is deceptively small, its content compartmentalized in 1-2 page sec...more
Mohsen Ahmadi
کتاب پرده در واقع مجموعه نقدهایی است که به لحاظ زیبایی شناختی در هفت بخش نسبت به رمان‌ها و رمان‌نویسان معروف داشته. فصل ابتدایی کتاب به‌جز یک یا دو بخش خیلی کوتاه خسته‌کننده‌ست و اگر علاقه‌ای به خوندن نقدهای ادبی نداشته باشین ممکنه مثل من حوصله‌تون سر بره. اما از فصل‌های بعدی کتاب وقتی با نگاه متفاوت‌تری به کتاب تورق داشته باشید کتاب خیلی براتون دلنشین‌تر می‌شه. در واقع می‌تونید تو این کتاب، ایده‌ی اصلی اکثر رمان‌های معروف و ارزشمند دنیا رو داشته باشید.
Heather Buelow
Oct 05, 2010 Heather Buelow rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Those interested in the history and values of the novel
Shelves: non-fiction
Kundera makes beautiful and admirable points about the novel as a literary form, and he writes thoughtfully of its history. I would have enjoyed the work more if it felt more solid, had more unifying ideas. Each small section, lasting only a couple pages, has its own point. To be fair, these are often interesting points in themselves, but they leave the work as a whole feeling scattered among too many ideas.

His own personal and national history provide engaging anecdotes, but sometimes feel mis...more
I thoroughly enjoyed The Curtain, Milan Kundera's series of short essays on the history of the novel. It doesn't contain any earth-shattering insight, but its genius lies in Kundera's ability to take all of the various brief thoughts on literature that may have flitted in and out of your head and put them together far more concretely and concisely than you ever could.

On the whole, the essays are truly entertaining and very accessible. Though I haven't read many of the books he references (the e...more
Eric Fitzsimmons
I've given 5 stars to every Milan Kundera book I've read, because they are all so good and fresh even if they were published forty years ago. In this, books are his characters, they are bright and sometimes flawed and follow an arc. It completely upended my 'to-read' list.
Darío Carrillo
"Quien levanta el vuelo un día aterrizará. Presa de angustia, imagino el día en que el arte dejará de buscar lo nunca dicho y volverá, dócilmente, a ponerse al servicio de la vida colectiva, que exigirá de él que embellezca la repetición y ayude al individuo a confundirse, alegre y en paz, con la uniformidad del ser." Milan Kundera
i haven't read kundera since life is elsewhere, many many years ago. i really enjoyed this very personal aesthetic history of the novel. drawing on hermann broch's didactic insight to understand we must compare, kundera skillfully explores the singularity of the novel as an art form while contextualizing its development within larger political events and contemporaneous trends in philosophy, music, and poetry. there is an emphasis on european cultural production, and the many differences within...more
Kundera writes about the aesthetic of the novel, the novel as a work of art. Throughout, he provides examples, both classical and more contemporary that explore the history of the novel as an art form. He also argues that works can only be understood through a knowledge of these novels and their subsequent evolution from the novels which preceded it and/or the novel's response to the larger society. There is quite a bit on forgetting and memory which readers of Kundera will recognize as signific...more
Reminds me of a tamer version of Harold Bloom's, Anxiety of Influence. That text frustrated me. This one does not.
History of the novel and it's depiction of human nature, the art of the novel and the influence of previous works upon the next. Focuses on world versus national literature, especially the western hemisphere. Very readable thus far.
Inspires me to read Eastern European literature, Don Quijote and The Sleepwalkers. Would recommend this if you think on high literary terms. How litera...more
This didn't do much for me. Whether it was because I didn't give it my full attention or because I lack the familiarity with the novels discussed, I don't know. Mostly, it just seemed to be a bit precious and lacking the profound insights I would normally expect from Kundera. Rather than casting new light or opinions on the novel it seemed more like an excuse to wallow in his sophisticated choice of reading material. I definitely appear to be in the minority though, so perhaps I should try readi...more
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Why is the novel, novel? 1 23 Jun 18, 2008 05:48PM  
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Milan Kundera is a Czech and French writer of Czech origin who has lived in exile in France since 1975, where he became a naturalized citizen in 1981. He is best known as the author of The Unbearable Lightness of Being, The Book of Laughter and Forgetting, and The Joke.

Kundera has written in both Czech and French. He revises the French translations of all his books; these therefore are not conside...more
More about Milan Kundera...
The Unbearable Lightness of Being The Book of Laughter and Forgetting Immortality The Joke Laughable Loves

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“What? We feel aesthetic pleasure at a sonata by Beethoven and not at one with the same style and charm if it comes from one of our own contemporaries? Isn't that the height of hypocrisy? So then the sensation of beauty is not spontaneous, spurred by our sensibility, but instead is cerebral, conditioned by our knowing a date?
No way around it: historical consciousness is so thoroughly inherent in our perception of art that this anachronism (a Beethoven piece written today) would be spontaneously (that is, without the least hypocrisy) felt to be ridiculous, false, incongruous, even monstrous. Our feeling for continuity is so strong that it enters into the perception of any work of art.”
“Homer never wondered whether, after their many hand-to-hand struggles, Achilles or Ajax still had all their teeth.” 3 likes
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