Milan Kundera’s ‘Festival of Insignificance’

La-la-ca-0605-milan-kundera-356-jpg-20150610David L Ulin at the LA Times:

There's not much to Milan Kundera's 10th novel, “The Festival of Insignificance” — his first work of fiction since 2000's “Innocence” — but then that's part of the point. Revolving around five middle-aged friends living in Paris, it offers not a narrative so much as a collection of vignettes, or reflections: the novel as a set of asides.

“Time moves on,” one of Kundera's characters tells us. “Because of time, first we're alive — which is to say: indicted and convicted. Then we die, and for a few more years we live on in the people who knew us, but very soon there's another change; the dead become the old dead, no one remembers them any longer and they vanish into the void; only a few of them, very, very rare ones, leave their names behind in people's memories, but, lacking any authentic witnesses now, any actual recollection, they become marionettes.”

This, of course — the issue of meaning in the face of human vanity — has long been at the center of Kundera's work. His first novel, “The Joke,” published in Czechoslovakia in 1967, describes in part the fallout from a satirical postcard (“OPTIMISM IS THE OPIUM OF THE PEOPLE!” it declares. “THE HEALTHY ATMOSPHERE STINKS! LONG LIVE TROTSKY!”) sent by a Czech student to a young woman he wishes to seduce: humor that cannot be read as humor, in other words.

more here.