Early in his ruminations on “the history of the art of the novel,” Milan Kundera notes how Henry Fielding, in Tom Jones, “so as not to suffocate in the long corridor of a causal chain of events, flung wide the windows of digressions and episodes throughout.” Kundera approves, and no wonder: the seven essays making up The Curtain are themselves divided into lucid micro-essays, structurally integrated but independently digestible, encompassing both the canon (he’s well-read enough to exclaim: “an amazing detail: Zola never read Dangerous Liaisons!”), and socio-political rants, close readings of beloved novels, and anecdotes. As with his fiction, the organizing principle is, well, Milan Kundera: here is a Unified Theory of Everything, experientially derived and arranged according to personal context (informed largely by the Czech struggle for self-definition, historically and culturally). He’d make a hell of a blogger.
And like a blogger, the value of Kundera’s perspective is proportionate to the frequency of its alignment with any given reader’s. This renders any critical judgment of The Curtain even more subjective than usual: this reviewer finds Kundera revelatory about 30 percent of the time; but, as they say in the blogosphere, YMMV.