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1228812288One of max Beerbohms cartoons shows MrsHumphry Ward as a very little girlsaying to a sardonically smiling Matthew ArnoldUncle Matthew oh why will you not be always wholly seriousThe question arises unbidden in the novels of Milan kunderaThe mind behind the novels is essentially seriousand yet they are very funnysometimes farcicalOur puzzlement is not wholly laid to rest in Kunderas new bookThe Art of The NovelThe title evokes the methodological solemnity of Henry Jamesbut the book is in fact a rather short collection of essays which have already been published separatelyIt is ture that kundera affirms that he conceived this seven-part essaywith the idea that they would someday be linked together in one book-essay setting out my thoughts on the art of the novelBut this sounds rather like a publishers poly to turn a miscellany into a unityThe contents were conceived of as a unified wholeand must therefore compose oneIn formthey do not make that impression-three essaystwo interviewsa public addressand a dictionary of 62 wordsYet the mind in the book is certainly consistent The first essay is entitledThe Depreciated Legacy of Cervantesearlier published as The Novel And EuropeBoth title are aptKundera begins with lecturegiven in Vienna and Pragueon the crisis in the humanitiesby Edmund HusserlByEuropeanHusserl meant that passion to knowwhich began in Greeceand which has since characterized the Western philosophic traditionIt began its modern secular trejectory when Galileo and Descartes narrowed the emphasis of thought to what could be demonstrated scientificallythey wholly neglected the LebensweltHeideggersbeautiful and almost magical pharsefor the concrete experience of living in the worldCervantes founded another vital modern traditionthe novel with its chosen concentration on beingCervantes took up the problem of adventureand there followed him other writers whodiscovered other dimensions of existence one by onethere was Samuel Richardson with what happened insidethesecret life of the feelingsBalzacwith mans rootedness in historyFlaubertand the quotidion dimension of lifeand later TolstoyProust Joyce and mann all devoted themselves to exploring new areasforas kunderaquoting his Austrian masterHermann Brochwrotethe
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