cover image Encounter


Milan Kundera, trans. from the French by Linda Asher, Harper, $23.99 (192p) ISBN 978-0-06-189441-1

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.)