Monday, April 09, 2007

Although a bit off-topic here's a review of Milan Kundera's The Curtain where he tells of an encounter with Gabriel García Márquez, Carlos Fuentes, and Julio Cortázar in Prague.

During a conversation with a French acquaintance he is eager not to let his account of life in Prague under Soviet surveillance dip into the syrupy sweet “aesthetic evil” of kitsch. As the dominant style in the 19th century, kitsch was understood by Central Europeans as the tyranny of over-blown Romanticism. Kundera describes an episode that could be found in one of his novels: an apartment swap with a womanizing friend that befuddles the Soviet spies as well as the friend’s multiple lovers. The ensuing icy response to the light treatment of a heavy subject is chalked up to the Frenchman’s own distaste for the vulgar, his nation’s equivalent of kitsch. The two men are held apart not by their respective native languages, but by a cultural barrier that is deeply engrained within their national literary consciousness. As an antidote to this story of national differences Kundera describes a memorable encounter with Latin American writers, Gabriel García Márquez, Carlos Fuentes, and Julio Cortázar, when the trio visited Prague in the early days of the Russian occupation. “We would talk and a bridge—silvery, light, quivering, shimmering—formed like a rainbow over the century between my little Central Europe and the immense Latin America; a bridge that linked Matyas Braun’s ecstatic statues in Prague to the mad churches of Mexico.” For Kundera, the experience of reading One Hundred Years of Solitude moves from a free-flowing appraisal of magical realism, into an analysis of historical and social continuities between two countries traumatized by centuries of invasion.
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