High Modernism

Grand Schemes to Improve the Human Condition

Short Reviews: February 2020

Garrett Jones, 10% Less Democracy: This book does not need a short review since I have already written a very long one. I will say here that it is very good and look forward to following Jones’ work closely

Milan Kundera, The Book of Laughter and Forgetting: I had read The Unbearable Lightness of Being a few years ago and wanted more. Kundera is a strange writer in that while his prose often underwhelms and his philosophy and heavy-handed themes can feel sophomoric, I still find myself thinking about his work and wanting more. Even his trite philosophy can be fun: Categorizing people as either heavy or light, as he suggests in Unbearable Lightness is, to me, a surprisingly fruitful mental model. It is also impressive that he can make one feel wistful for Bohemia (hiraeth?) and good that he can bring life to the unique culture that briefly existed.

Also surprisingly fruitful: Reading Kundera and Houellebecq together. Kundera writes of the early inklings of the Sexual Revolution in Bohemia. Houellebecq obsesses over their implications (especially in Elementary Particles). In a literal way, Kundera’s culture was brought to Paris as Czechs left Prague after the Prague Spring. The two even seem to have a similar diagnosis of the differences between men and women. But Kundera is obviously much more optimistic about sexually liberated culture than Houellebecq. This might be explained by the fact that Kundera focuses almost exclusively on its winners, while Houellebecq its losers.

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Short Reviews: February 2020