Encounter book review

Encounter might as well be entitled ‘Ending’, so interested is Milan Kundera in exploring what he foresees as the end of art

Book review, Time In
Milan Kundera

4/5
Harper Perennial

Encounter might as well be entitled ‘Ending’, so interested is Milan Kundera in exploring what he foresees as the end of art (and mourning its potential demise) At turns elegiac and pointed, the brief essays in this collection push back against the waning public concern for art and the aesthetic.

As he writes in ‘No Celebration,’ ‘We have come to the era of post-art, in a world where art is dying, because the need for art, the sensitivity and the love for it, is dying.’

In Beckett, he sees drama’s endpoint; in Bacon, painting’s logical conclusion. In one piece, he even predicts love’s slow demise. Though Kundera expertly trades in esoterica, Encounter still remains accessible, partially because he spends as much time musing on Gabriel García Márquez and Beethoven as he does the more obscure Icelandic author Gudbergur Bergsson and Czech composer Leos Janacek. Kundera also uses his artistic subjects as touchstones for his own anecdotes, leaving the collection deeply personal and warmly inviting.

While fragmentary and occasionally disordered, Encounter is a call to arms for a culture on the verge of losing its artistic credibility. Claire Bullen

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