"Immersion in the life of the world, a willingness to be inhabited by and to speak for others, including those beyond the realm of the human, these are the practices not just of the bodhisattva but of the writer." --Jane Hirshfield

Sunday, March 4, 2007

Milan Kundera au Jardin des Tuileries

Sometime ago, I was in Paris, and I saw Milan Kundera in the Tuileries, feeding the birds. His eyes were mesmeric, and the sparrows sat on his fingertips, eating seeds from his palm. I did not recognize him until I returned home, and checked the photo on the back of The Unbearable Lightness of Being. How fitting that the man to write that title communed with the beings most attuned to lightness. If I ever meet him, I will dredge up this line of French, "Je vous ai vu au Jardin des Tuileries, il y a dix/quinze/vingt ans." If I have the nerve, I will add, "avec des oiseaux." At the time, he gave me a small nod of acknowledgment, not to disturb his small friends. I smiled, and went on my way. Probably to the Eiffel Tower.

Meanwhile, I read this. From the Guardian.

And this, in the NY Times, where Russell Banks points out that "he’s not inclusive enough. He does not discuss a single female novelist, even in passing. It’s as if no Western woman has ever tried writing a serious novel in 400 years. And, in his appreciation of non-European novelists like Fuentes, García Márquez and Chamoiseau, he colonizes them, as if culturally they gazed longingly toward their European mother- and fatherlands instead of their homelands. But then, he’s not writing literary criticism; he’s writing the secret history of the novels of Milan Kundera and teaching us how to read them."

What can you expect when the NY Times also features this lineup of the Best American Fiction of the past 25 years -- the winner, center and four runners-up.

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