My reflections on Ignorance by Milan Kundera
I don’t really want to spoil this book for you and that is why I’m going to churn the ocean a bit and let you know the questions I felt and thoughts that arose as I journeyed through the narrative.
What struck me the most with this book by Milan Kundera were the seriously powerful metaphors…metaphors like “The horror of being a body”. Maybe this is the key to understanding this novel, everything around comes to haunt the body from minor insignificant events to political upheavals to love making.
Kundera also takes his time to reflect on death and how in a way death is the reason for us to feel the way we do. The structure of this story is intentionally modeled on Odysseus’s return to Ithaca and the power of nostalgia. The power of nostalgia overpowers our desire for adventures. There is something about our own Ithaca that compels us to leave our lives and return to our past. The deal is our Ithaca could be anything- a relationship or even an experience.
His engaging story is also peppered with powerful Philosophical reflections like memory, time, place, death and survival. I especially liked his reflections on the sense of time a Political movement can impose. There is a sense of eternity in a Political conditions that prevents us from imagining an alternative future although some extraordinary event might explode at any moment from nowhere! Then we have geniuses who imagine they exist solely for the future. Kundera mentions a composer who believes that his music can be enjoyed by an “enlightened” audience from the future and his rival writes for the present. The irony here is that he enjoyed immediate posthumous fame for twenty years and then he was forgotten entirely. Sometimes great people underestimate time and maybe artists should understand that they do not do what they do for any “ideal” audience but they do stuff because it has to be done just for the heck of it. Sometimes it is great to exist without a purpose and just be.
Kundera does not touch the question of meaning but what I felt that meaning comes with all its glory and intensity during certain events but a slight “disturbance” can change everything and expose everything to ridiculous triviality.
The question is: Why do we choose to remember what we remember and forget everything else? Why are our memories so weak? Why do we choose to remember that which we remember and forget everything else?
Those are minor questions but in the end what really does matter?
Does it really matter that Irena made love to Josef not knowing if he really remembers her? Why is memory so weird that it manipulates our disposition towards ourselves and the other?
These questions really hit me hard as I flipped through the pages of this book but I felt a sense of aesthetic detachment towards the end. I really could not relate to any character there but I really did enjoy reading this book. So give this a try and do let me know all about your experience with this book.