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Sep 25, 2014
From French-Czech novelist Milan Kundera in his book, The Art of The Novel

Milan Kundera is the author of several novels, most famously, his 1984 novel, 'The Unbearable Lightness of Being.' Later a mega movie.

How many writers, however prolific, however mighty their publishing record and marketing machinery, are ultimately remembered by readers for the one, arguably greatest thing they wrote? For me, with, say, Frederick Forsyth, it would still be his first, 'The Day of the Jackal', written, he said, out of financial desperation in about 36 days, and not one thing changed in subsequent line editing. He later said it was a crazy thing to do, because if you need money fast, the one thing you do not do is sit down and write a novel.

Why do writers do this peculiar thing? The odds are against them making money even if they do get published.

This, from Milan Kundera:

"Every novel says to the reader, “Things are not as simple as they seem. That is the novel’s eternal truth, but it grows steadily harder to hear amid the din of easy, quick answers that come faster than the question and block it off. A novel examines not reality but existence. And existence is not what has occurred, existence is the realm of human possibilities, everything that man* can become, everything he’s capable of. Novelists draw up the map of existence by discovering this or that human possibility. But… to exist means “being-in-the-world.” Thus both the character and his world must be understood as possibilities… [Novels] thereby make us see what we are, and what we are capable of".

Novels deal in the supra-personal, and the honesty of ultimate uncertainties. Which means a novel is essentially elusive- some might complain, untidy- not neatly wrapped up at 'the end'.

ADD and this is typical of how this manifests....."in a note to the Czech edition of the book, Kundera remarks that the movie had very little to do with the spirit either of the novel or the characters in it.[2] In the same note Kundera goes on to say that after this experience he no longer allows any adaptations of his work. Many critics have focused on how much of the book was successfully captured, or could be captured, on film; however, some commentators, such as Cattrysse Patrick, have argued that the film must be viewed in a different light, with the book as only one source of inspiration." - Wiki

Because it isn't the end. It's only white space. Like the fairy stories. With the honourable exception of the murder mystery genre, which challenges the reader to 'beat the writer' by second guessing the 'perp'.

But otherwise, the novel is bigger than either the reader or its own author. That's the supra-personal, which takes us some place we can't even name. Only feel. I sometimes think a person is basically a haunted house, and we are all haunted houses. Writers find ways to bottle up a ghost.

Pic is own photo, approaching the Isle of Mull, crossing from Oban to Tobermory on the Caledonian MacBrayne, 1984.


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