n French Studies in Southern Africa - L'écriture chez Kundera : voyage vers l'autre comme exploration existentielle du soi. Une lecture de

Volume 2005, Issue 35
  • ISSN : 0259-0247



According to Milan Kundera, in his , the novel is a 'long meditative interrogation (or interrogative meditation) on the essence of our existential condition. The enigma of the self that all novels, in some fashion, try to elucidate will never be resolved (as the self cannot be grasped). It can only be explored in the light of our understanding that we are trapped in the paradox of existence (which is made up of extreme and unrealized possibilities). Calvino and Kundera's philosophical perspectives as reflected in, in order, (1988) and (1988) undoubtedly converge into a single premise: writing is synonymous with the creation of unique "intellectual universe[s]" (Kundera 1988:78) born out of a quête for existential meaning. Kundera tells us in , that the "novel is not the author's confession; it is an investigation of human life in the trap the world has become." (Kundera 1984: 218). In turn, Calvino points out that literature is "the search for lightness as a reaction to the weight of living" (Calvino 1988: 26), a quest which, Kundera stresses, ineluctably results in 'terminal paradoxes' (Kundera 1986: 41).

By linking these seemingly unrelated theoretical positions on literary creations it becomes apparent that both authors' experimental affinities converge into the notion of writing as an existential process. In my reading of , I will demonstrate how this text reflects the author's theoretical standpoint on the novel and how this, in turn, parallels Calvino's literary views as outlined in . My analysis will focus on the literary quality Calvino calls visibility. I will demonstrate that images in create the characters' personal myths. These myths, it will be shown, translate into a multiplicity of personal realities to which the quest for self and the chasm between action and identity are central. The "paradoxical nature of action", thus revealed opens up narrative avenues for philosophical meditations on the nature of the self and the investigation of unique existential definitions.

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