Sunday, October 3, 2010

Lit from all sides

Encounter; Milan Kundera
Faber; Rs 499; Pp 176 
Philistines stay off art or buy kitsch. But the “misomusist” engages with art, in order to destroy it. An entry in the glossary, “Sixty-three words”, in Milan Kundera’s The Art of the Novel (1986), says: “To be without a feeling for art is no disaster. A person can live in peace without reading Proust or listening to Schubert. But the misomusist does not live in peace. He feels humiliated by the existence of something that is beyond him, and he hates it. There is a popular misomusy.... The fascist and Communist regimes made use of it.... But there is an intellectual, sophisticated misomusy as well: it takes revenge on art by forcing it to a purpose beyond the aesthetic.... The apocalypse of art: the misomusists will themselves take on the making of art; thus will their historic vengeance be done.” And, an intellectual decimation of art will be far more devastating than burning of books.

In a fresh instalment of his career-long homage to Rabelais in his new book Encounter: Essays, Kundera describes “misomusy” (detestation of the Muses) as “an indifference to art, a rejection of art, an allergy to art”. Non-serious Rabelais, in France (unlike everywhere else), was first forgotten and then reduced to a “serious” humanist thinker. Kundera asserts, with regret: “Now that historiography and literary theory are becoming ever more ‘misomusistic’, writers are the only people who can say anything interesting about Rabelais.” As only they can about all writers.

Full review here Indian Express

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