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The Festival of Insignificance: A Novel by Milan Kundera

by Venky


Slate, while reviewing this work by Milan Kundera termed it, “a wonderful novel….A fitting capstone on an extraordinary career”. The book is indeed an eclectically extraordinary collection of emotions, occurrences and episodes. While falsely resembling an assorted rambling of unconnected things, it is in fact an assiduously tailored and deliberately constructed pile of significant thoughts that is clothed deceptively in a veil of insignificance.

Alain, Ramon, Charles and Caliban are four friends whose lives make for some divergent experiences. While each is preoccupied with his own destiny and the attendant accoutrements, they find solace in the company of each other. A solace that takes the strange form of irrelevant ramblings, irreverent observations and inane playacting. Kundera’s queer amalgam of friends is completely bereft of all elements of seriousness and yet there is a profound influence on the reader as the quartet traipse across the pages, in a manner disjointed yet connected.

What distinguishes this work from his earlier masterpieces such as “The Unbearable Lightness Of Being”, is the continuous presence of a near farcical element. The “unserious” unseats the real and absurdity conquers boring seriousness. In an era where the most visible and unfortunately apparent aspect of a novel is its stereotypical seriousness, “The Festival of Insignificance” marks a refreshing departure from accepted boorishness. There are paintings that make it not only difficult but also totally futile any attempts made to dwell into its meaning. The most sensible and preferred alternative would be to just view it and enjoy, setting aside feelings of prejudices and perplexities, scorn and sarcasm.

“The Festival Of Insignificance” is one of those paintings. It just needs to be read and enjoyed. It would be an exercise in absurdity to seek for logic, scour for humour and scavenge for ‘significance’. For as Kundera himself sums it all up – “Insignificance is the essence of existence”.

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