Milan Kundera’s Encounter

Bu-Kundera_Milan_0502143518Linda Asher in the San Francisco Gate:

In his celebrated fiction (“The Joke,” “The Book of Laughter and Forgetting,” “The Unbearable Lightness of Being”), the world-renowned writer Milan Kundera has always shown a penchant for the witty essayistic aside. His book-length study, “The Art of the Novel,” singled out for special praise the philosophical novel of Marcel Proust, Robert Musil and Hermann Broch, with its love of reflection and rumination.

So it is no surprise that this author should also take confidently to the essay form. “Encounter” is, in fact, Kundera's fourth volume of essays to appear in English. Ably translated by Linda Asher, it allows us, if nothing else, to enjoy the company of this cultivated, worldly, charming and spirited observer as he roams freely over literature, music and art. The prospective buyer is still entitled to ask: How well does the collection stand up on its own? Another way of putting the question: We know he is a first-rate fiction writer; how good an essayist is Kundera, really?