Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The birth of the novel, according Kundera

In contrast to the Greek world of antiquity, the world that produced the great epics, The Iliad and The Odyssey,"Hegel contrasts the society of his own period: organized into the state, equipped with a constitution, laws, a justice system, an omnipotent administration, ministries, a police force, and so on. This society imposes its moral principles on the individual, whose behavior is thus determined far more by anonymous wishes coming from outside than by his own personality. And it is in such a world that the novel was born. Like the epic in earlier times, the novel too is founded on action. But in a novel action is made problematic, appears as a many-faceted question...what does the word 'freedom' mean in concreto, in the bureaucratized modern world where the possibilities are so minute?"- Milan Kundera from Aesthetics and Existence, part five of the The Curtain: An Essay in Seven Parts.

While this strikes me as a fairly conservative critique of the state, it is really a human critique. It is important to note that Kundera is not a radical opposed to the state, that is, he is not an anarchist. I like this observation because it could form the basis of a great discussion by people who agree with it, but who hold very different political views.

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