Who is Milan Kundera?

"Love is a canvas furnished by nature and embroidered by imagination." (Voltaire)

While sitting alone with my depressing drudgery I was coaxing a few dog-ears of one of my favourites, “The Book of Laughter and Forgetting” by Milan Kundera. I can't help lamely spreading a page before you, not a page proper, but a smaller bit, “Who is Voltaire?” (Part Five, “Litost”, Page 169, Faber and Faber)

Read and think how magnanimous can a writer be, for desire's sake, when he is at his literary pinnacle. In this small episode of the novel, and even more in this smaller part - poetry, the aroma of literature, loses to a simple joy of living – living being sanctimonious and desire being an unchallenged creator of desires.

Who is Voltaire?

Voltaire is a lecturer of the university faculty of arts and letters, he is witty and aggressive, and he eyes his adversaries with a malicious look. Reason enough to call him Voltaire.
    He liked the student, and that is no slight distinction, because Voltaire was particular about the company he kept. After the seminar one day, he went up to him to ask whether he was free the following evening. The following evening, alas, was when Kristyna was coming. It took courage for the student to tell Voltaire he was busy. But Voltaire waved the objection away: “Well, just reschedule. You won't regret it.” And then he told him that the country's best poets were getting together tomorrow at the Writers Club and that he, Voltaire, wanted to introduce the student to them.
    Yes, the great poet about whom Voltaire was writing a monograph and whose house he frequented would also be there. He was ill and walked with crutches. That is why he rarely went out, and an opportunity to meet him was all the more to be valued.
    The student knew the books of all the poets who would be there next day, but of the great poet's verse, he knew whole pages by heart. He had never wanted anything more ardently than to spend an evening in their company. Then he remembered he had not made love to a woman in months, and he said again that it would be impossible for him to come.
    Voltaire did not understand what could be more important than meeting great men. A woman? Can't that be put off? Suddenly his glasses were flashing ironically. But the student was seeing before him the image of the butcher's wife who had shyly evaded him during a long vacation month, and though it took great effort, he shook his head. Just then, Kristyna was worth all his country's poetry.


Love is the starting point where two ends meet. At this point, perfection towards making love more perfect is alloyed with sufferings nourished in the cave of “litost”. Suffering is enjoyed and enjoyment is suffered by the author, in his characters, that is, in himself. The author enjoys most when his characters suffer and are left alone. The student chooses love, then and there, and gives Kristyna a justifiably poetic definition. He bridges the man in him with the flesh of the woman and the poet in him, with the art that has attributed the flesh womanhood.

The half-and-a-half-page word-limning has egged me on playing something with my itching scribomania, once again, while my eyeballs have popped off and begun enjoying the fictional friction on the brilliant piece – with pace of slowness, identity crisis of identity and wisdom of ignorance.

Can you ever forget those lines, "furnished by nature" of Kundera and "embroidered by imagination" of the same?


Rajesh said...

Interesting review.

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Sadiya Merchant said...

have u read laughable loves by the same author??? its gorgeous!!! :)

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