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The Art of the Novel

3.97  ·  Rating details ·  5,298 ratings  ·  352 reviews
Kundera brilliantly examines the work of such important and diverse figures as Rabelais, Cervantes, Sterne, Diderot, Flaubert, Tolstoy, and Musil. He is especially penetrating on Hermann Broch, and his exploration of the world of Kafka's novels vividly reveals the comic terror of Kafka's bureaucratized universe.

Kundera's discussion of his own work includes his views on the
Paperback, 176 pages
Published April 1st 2003 by Harper Perennial Modern Classics (first published November 21st 1986)
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Glenn Russell
Mar 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing

NOVEL. The great prose form in which an author thoroughly explores, by means of experimental selves (characters), some great themes of existence.

LETTERS. They are getting smaller and smaller in books these days. I imagine the death of literature; bit by bit, without anyone noticing, the type shrinks until it becomes utterly invisible.

The above two quotes convey the richness and creamy depth along with the playfulness a reader will encounter in this book by one of the giants of modern literature,
Paul Bryant
Jun 27, 2016 marked it as probably-never
I just came across a website called Theregoesanother25minutesyou’ and it has a whole new attitude to literary criticism which I for one think is long overdue. They have the following eye-catching picture sections:

Can you recognize these overweight authors?

Wait till you see what these Shakespearian heroines look like now – Number 17 is jawdropping

15 transgender characters from Dostoyevsky no one knew about

You’ll never recognize these formerly hot Henry James male protagonists

A collection of essays, interviews and speeches, with 69 definitions and notes tagging along.

"alas, the novel too is assailed by the termites of depreciation that not only depreciate the meaning of the world but also the meaning of art works. The novel (like any cultural item) is increasingly in the hands of the media ; those, being the agents of uniformization of world history, strenghten and go along with the process of depreciation ; they spread the same oversimplifications and hackneyed idea
Ahmad Sharabiani
L'art du roman = The Art of the Novel, Milan Kundera
Kundera brilliantly examines the work of such important and diverse figures as: Rabelais, Cervantes, Sterne, Diderot, Flaubert, Tolstoy, and Musil. He is especially penetrating on Hermann Broch, and his exploration of the world of Kafka's novels vividly reveals the comic terror of Kafka's bureaucratized universe. Kundera's discussion of his own work includes his views on the role of historical events in fiction, the meaning of action, and the
Emily Rapp
Apr 21, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Kundera is able to talk about the structure of his novel in a way that is both profound and accessible to writers of any ilk. I especially like his attitudes (negative!) toward the mass-production of "market books" which he compares to another form of celebrity culture encroaching on the literary world. His comparisons of novelistic "movements" to those in music are especially profound. The best thing about this book: Kundera's idea that novels are in fact an inquiry into a facet of human existe ...more
Jim Coughenour
I first read this book in the early 90s. Recently I was in a spirited conversation about Boccaccio's Decameron. One friend said that the stories were "enjoyable, but ultimately empty." Now my friend is a smart guy, but his remark struck me as remarkably stupid. It just proved that he didn't "get it." The Decameron is full of laughter – you can almost argue that it is constructed for laughter, and laughter in the history of the novel is a value of its own. Mocking wit, a refusal of piety and plat ...more
Sidharth Vardhan
Got like 7500+ words in quotes I collected only. Can't share full review because of limits imposed by goodreads. This gonna be too big a long review.

Chapter 1 The Depriciated Legacy of Cervantes

Milan Kundera draws a rough and brief sketch of history of novel. Kundera insists that the novels should do what only novels can do.

Can novels die? It has already happened

"About half a century ago the history of the novel came to a halt in the empire of Russian Communism. That is an event of huge importa
W.D. Clarke
Jun 09, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favourites
This has profoundly affected the way I view the history (and future) of the novel. From Barthes' "Death of the Author" through Barth's "Literature of Exhaustion" (and beyond--to the comparatively Lilliputian debate between Ben Marcus and Jonathan Franzen, the repetition-as-farce of the Broch/Brecht debates of the e20C, as entertaining as they were), nothing else has given me such a clear and, yes, Olympian vista. If interested, see my extended meditation on this book at http://longform.wdclarke. ...more
Feb 17, 2007 rated it liked it
I like Kundra because he doesn’t imprison me in a fastened frame of a classic narration. Reading Kundra seems as if you meet an old friend after ages in a cafe shop, and while she/he relates her / his life story, you zip your coffee, listen to the cafe music, hear some chats and laughs at nabouring tables, look at the peddlers at side walk, or a passing tramvay, … as life is flowing around, ….

کوندرا را به این دلیل بسیار دوست دارم که مرا در چهارچوب بسته ی یک روایت زندانی نمی کند. خواندن کونرا مث
Stephen Durrant
Jun 27, 2012 rated it really liked it
Kundera's view of the novel is very much shaped by his own experience as an exile from Communist Czechoslovakia (beware, "Czechoslovakia" is a proper noun he never uses [p126]) . For him the novel is the surest voice confronting totalitarianism: "Totalitarian Truth excludes relativity, doubt, questioning; it can never accommodate what I would call 'the spirit of the novel.'" Kafka is the great prophet of totalitarianism, and Kundera is at his best, I believe, when he describes what he calls "the ...more
Robert W
Sep 18, 2007 rated it liked it
I just finished Milan Kundera’s The Art of the Novel. There are lots of little interesting things in it, but I’ll just mention a couple that caught my attention.

The book was published in 1985, and Kundera doesn’t foresee the end of the Soviet empire. In an amusing bit about translation, he explains why good translation is so important to him. It’s because his books couldn’t be published in Czech. He was an unperson there. It’s a small country and there aren’t a lot of Czech speakers elsewhere in
Oct 06, 2012 rated it liked it
What a wonderful day it has been. Cool and sunny, the weather welcomes with only a slim wink of menace behind such. I awoke early and after watching City i went and joined some friends for smoked wheat beer and colorful conversations about public vomiting and the peasant revolts during the Reformation. Oh and there was a parade. I didn't pay much attention to that.

Returning home I watched Arsenal's triumph and enjoyed the weather and picked up this witty distillation. Zadie Smith's Changing My M
Manuel Antão
Aug 24, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2020
If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review.

Oneiric Writings: "The Art of the Novel" by Milan Kundera, Linda Asher (Trans.)

Kundera in his article Kafka's World (1988) drawn from his book “Art of the Novel” (1986) says the difference between Dostoyevsky and Kafka is that in Dostoyevsky the offence seeks out punishment (Raskonikov) but in Kafka punishment seeks out the offence.

Kundera sees Kafka's imaginary, oneiric writings as one manifestation of the growth of bureaucracies and
Kurdo Chali
Mar 18, 2020 rated it really liked it
A must-read for every serious reader of literature, and more, for every one who wants to live as a modern mind in this modern world.
The beginning of this started really well with some great quotes on the "art of the novel". Notably, the quote,

'If the novel should really disappear, it will do so not because it has exhausted its powers but it exists in a world grown alien to it.'

That's just a fantastic quote. There are more but why would I write them all here? That would be like those terrible trailers that show the best bits of the movie; then you go into the cinema and come out and think, oh. Believe me though, there are s
David Waid
Oct 03, 2014 rated it did not like it
I love his books and yet this came across as pretentious--one of the cardinal sins according to my philosophy. He is a guy who definitely looks down on books that are "merely" fun and that pretty much disqualified the whole thing for me. While I love his books, I don't think weighty thoughts are a necessity to make a novel good. They are a pleasant flavor, but one of many. It would be like saying only salty dishes taste good--an insult to chocolate cakes everywhere! ...more
J.M. Hushour
Aug 05, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I saw this sitting on my re-read shelf, along with all of Kundera's novels and figured, hey, I write every now and again, what does Kundy have to tell me about the hows and whatsits? Plus, I have fond memories of wandering around southwestern Czech Republic where I bought this book, getting drunk and attending church.
There's a few nice essays and discussions here about codes of characters, meanings, lack of description, and a very refreshing and reassuring approach to the novel as a way to explo
Aug 11, 2015 rated it really liked it
The Ludic Lightness of Literature

No peace is possible between the novelist and the agelaste [ those who do not laugh] . Never having heard God's laughter, the agelastes are convinced that the truth is obvious, that all men necessarily think the same thing, and that they themselves are exactly what they think they are. But it is precisely in losing the certainty of truth and the unanimous agreement of others that man becomes an individual. The novel is the imaginary paradise of individuals. It
Sep 10, 2013 rated it really liked it
Milan Kundera is more than a well-regarded novelist, he is also an engaged literary intellectual and in this book he begins to describe his idea of what the novel is, how it came to be, and it’s ultimate fate. It is an argument that begins with this book and continues with The Curtain. In analyzing the fate of the novel Kundera looks back to Cervantes, Fielding and Richardson. He talks of how those novels worked and points at the main culprit:

“But I don't want to predict the future paths of the
High-level literary criticism, if somewhat limited by Kudnera's regional perspectives.

Some chapters are more insightful than others, which prove long-winded, eccentric, or just plain boring.

His break down and analysis of the origin of the novel and how the novel functions as an exploratory voice of wisdom is important. Kundera's insight into what gives the novel life, and how this life is sustained by the curiosities of the novelist, are also important.

However, there are limitations to this one
Kent Winward
Jul 02, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I've found this book a continued and useful resource in analyzing and evaluating the novels I read and those I'm writing. Kundera's differentiation between the lyrical and the epic lovers has been a fruitful area of inquiry for me. The lyrical he defines as looking for the personal ideal in the individual and the epic is seeking out the infinite variety of the universe. Ultimately, novel reading and writing is about accessing the epic, which ironically can be done through examining the lyrical. ...more
James Henderson
Kundera is always worth reading. And this book is no exception. The emphasis on the formal aspects of fiction in ''The Art of the Novel'' is a principle for Kundera that is accompanied by an overt disavowal of any political agenda. A second principle is derived from the first, and it is the rejection of kitsch. Not simply bad or laughable art, kitsch is, in Kundera's definition from ''Sixty-three Words'' (his dictionary of the terms and categories that organize his imagination), ''the need to ga ...more
Farhan Khalid
The rise of the sciences propelled man into the tunnels of the specialized disciplines

The more he advanced in knowledge, the less clearly could he see either the world as a whole or his own self

Heidegger called "the forgetting of being"

With Cervantes a great European art took shape that is nothing other than the investigation of this forgotten being

With Cervantes and his contemporaries, novel inquiries the nature of adventure

With Richardson, it begins to examine "what happens inside", to unmask
Bernie Gourley
Dec 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is a collection of essays by the renowned Czech novelist about the literary novel, and particularly the European literary novel. That said, the pieces gather nicely into this collection without seeming disparate. Points and themes carry across the essays such that the book has a life as a whole. Also, the there is food for thought in this book even if one isn’t particularly interested in literary novels. There are ideas that could be of interest to any story crafters or writers.

There are s
John de' Medici
Jan 26, 2021 rated it it was amazing
This was such a delight!

Written in part meditation, part dialogue, this is the closest you can come to hearing Kundera talk of his approach to writing a novel.

Kundera expounds on what I've always read him say about novels in that, they can only say what a novel can say.

To Kundera, a novel (compared to other forms of writing) is unique in that it goes directly (or tries to) to the essence of the existential problem of being. A novelist then experiments with a self or selfs in the form of characte
Sep 29, 2020 rated it it was ok
Some ideas in here are really good, but it often devolves into word salad. Part Six is especially bad for this, sometimes reading like the definitions are being written with a random word generator (the misogynist's ideal is to be married to a childless woman, really?). And Kundera's argument that culture is no longer the big value by which Europeans "recognize, define and identify themselves" completely fails to predict the whole fandom-as-personality trend of the past couple of decades. I don' ...more
Shane Code
Oct 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: literature
Today the novel struggles to find its place in a society that no longer stops moving. It's a solid anchor for anyone curious about the novel medium and what it could be used to accomplish. Erudite, tight, and succinct, you cannot go too far wrong with Mr Kundera's work. ...more
Jul 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2018
I read this book for the first time in 1996 along with Kundera's Testaments Betrayed. In both I encountered a novelist reflecting on the novel in a way that transformed my own understanding of the form. ...more
Johnny Kennedy
Jan 18, 2020 rated it really liked it
agelaste - one who doesnt laugh.
May 02, 2017 added it
I have the satisfying feeling of having attended a semester at a european university I would never have the time or money to attend, to listen to a great writer teach a course on the european novel. Meaning: the insight into the themes of western thought are expressed - a skeletal, eloquent journey from cervantes to the predicted death of the novel is provided in a few chapters. A defence of kafka from unintelligence in another. Dialogues offer insight into kundera's own writing process, a dicti ...more
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Aspiring Authors ...: BOOK: The Art of the Novel - Milan Kundera 1 7 Dec 02, 2016 06:24AM  

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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 French citizen in 1981. He is best known for 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 considered tr

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