Milan Kundera is one of the greatest contemporary writers, I still remember the thrill of reading The Unbearable Lightness of Being when it was published in 1984. The struggle of the individual for freedom, Tereza’s attachment to books as tools of learning and intellectual development and as material symbols to assert herself in the personal sphere, to rise above the collective.
This political background is crucial to Kundera’s work, in his books he explores the unpredictability of human behaviour, he shows that truth is relative and therefore has no endurance nor validity.
The Curtain is an enlightening work on the art of the novel. The curtain is our veil of pre-interpretation of reality. Each one of us perceive reality from his/her own vantage, it is a reality formed by one’s cultural education, national identity and language. In this aspect, the curtain represents the ideologies and histories which influence our perceptions and impact our behaviours, thinking and acts, the provincialism, the “inability (or the refusal) to see one’s culture in the larger context.
The synthetic power of the novel has the ability to make the individual look though the curtain. Novel’s sole morality is knowledge, said Hermann Broth. Novelists must devote themselves to “tearing the curtain of pre- interpretation”. Their purpose is to observe, search and pose questions. “Who am I?”, “What is self?” “Do my choices define me, or does chance?”, “To what extent do I define myself, and to what extent is defined by other?” The imaginative world of the novel offers answers to these questions.
Kundera’s erudition, his passion for his art, that is something one rarely came across.