Friday, 13 August 2010
Thoughts on: Slowness (Milan Kundera)
I do not speak French.
Well. I do not speak much French. Like most of my generation, I know the lyrics to Art vs. Science's 'Parlez vous Francais' and also that bit from 'Lady Marmalade' but those sorts of phrases are hardly the sorts of things that you can walk up to a normal French person and say without either being slapped or lead into an inappropriate situation.
Nor do I speach Czech. (I actually don't even know what language they speak in the Czech republic...)
One person who would definitely speak both of those languages is Milan Kundera, prolific writer of modern literary fiction. And for my World Writing Today course, I have been asked to read a little novella of his called "Slowness."
First, an overview. Milan Kundera and his wife soujourn to a chateau (see I can use French words)in the French countryside which has seen two instances of... shall we say corporeal expressions of spontaneous love. Each of these events is one hundred years apart from the other. The first event takes place in France's decadent past... Mme de'T takes a lover for the night, a Chevalier who is already the paramour of a Contesse. Their lovemaking is an expression of daring and slowness. But come the following morning, the Chevalier learns of its farcical nature. He was only invited into Mme de'T's bed in order to throw her husband's suspicions aside as to the identity of her true lover, a Marquis. What the Chevalier must determine is whether or not to remember the moment in all its slowness as a beautiful thing, or to be ashamed that he has been had. The second event happens seemingly in the modern day. A young political commentator (I think that's what he is, anyway) attends some sort of political event in which he is made to feel impotent by the men he associates with, and so he picks up a young woman in order to prove to himself, and all of them, that he is more of a man. But in his haste to do so, the moment is spoiled and the woman leaves without a trace. Vincent feels worse than before.
The beauty of this book is in its simplicity. Everything Kundera says is so obvious. He picks up on the little truths of life that the rest of us overlook and points out to us all that in our "2 Minute Noodles" lifestyle, we focus on the end result and ignore the beauty of the process or the journey.
It really was a clever little book although I failed to see the outright comedy I was promised by my lecturer. And even better still, it fits perfectly into even the fullest bag. Perfect train or bus reading material.