Friday, August 20, 2010

Milan Kundera

I would not have known who Milan Kundera is had I not been encouraged to read The Unbearable Lightness of Being by someone for whom I carried a flamethrower, and for whom I still carry, after all these years, if not a torch, then at least a candle with many wicks.

But I digress.

Kundera was a Czech writer who lived under communism as a Party member, later supported a "reform" of Czech communism, and then gave up on that pipe dream and moved to France.

In The Book of Laughter and Forgetting, he articulates the dilemma that has ever afflicted the left. “Hell is already contained in the dream of paradise,” he contends. “Once the dream of paradise starts to turn into reality, however, here and there people begin to crop up who stand in its way, and so the rulers of paradise must build a little gulag on the side of Eden. In the course of time this gulag grows ever bigger … while the adjoining paradise gets ever smaller.” link


Later in life, Kundera finally and obviously understood.

1 comment:

mazenko said...

Well, since you've moved it to the top, I'll comment.

He finally understood? Understood what? That Eastern Bloc communist dictatorship and tyranny sucked? I don't think any rational American on the left or right, or anyone who regularly comments here, would argue against that.

Certainly, we can and should criticize the failed attempts at "communism" in Czechoslovakia and the Eastern Bloc. However, I hardly think his criticisms are an affliction of "the left." And he certainly didn't make a statement opposing liberalism by moving to France. If anything, his subsequent residence is an endorsement of the progressive left - a strong central government with the social programs to ensure stability of traditional institutions. I haven't run across any criticism from Kundera of France's health care system - so he certainly shouldn't be used to criticize the recent reforms here.

France : strong central government and economic freedoms, supported by social programs that preserve society and temper the more unseemly traits of the free market? Hmm, sounds kind of like America for the past eighty years.