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BOOKSHELF: Slowness

It is a fanciful tragic-comedy based on contemporary philosophical ideas that will not only enchant the reader, but will also rouse his intellect with its skewed logic.

india Updated: May 27, 2006 12:30 IST

Slowness
Milan Kundera
Translated by Linda Asher
Price — Rs 300
Publication — Faber & Faber

Slowness is Milan Kundera’s first novel in French, a change from his native Czech. It is a fanciful tragic-comedy based on contemporary philosophical ideas that will not only enchant the reader, but will also rouse his intellect with its skewed logic.

It takes a while for the flustered reader to decipher Kundera’s two parallel tales of seduction and romance. Once you read on, the two brilliantly fused parables slowly unfurl before you as intoxicating, pleasurable accounts of clandestine lovers, trying to preserve their short-lived seclusion from society.

The story wanders from one quirky character to another. The main plot follows an assorted group of eccentrics who have gone to a converted 18th-century chateau to attend a conference of entomologists.

Brilliantly merged alongside is the chronicle of a young Chevalier who is seduced there on the same night 200 years ago. Throughout the text, Kundera makes a number of interesting and particularly appealing observations .

The fundamental quest of this multitudinous book remains to understand the existential nature of ‘the dancer’. Pontevin, the book’s main theorist, talks about this concept, his own great invention, only to a close-knit circle of friends.

His theory is that ‘the dancer’ seeks glory, not power; his desire is not to impose arbitrary social schemes on the world like politicians, but to take over the stage so as to beam forth his self.

He applies the theory of the ‘dancer’ to politicians and the renowned, amongst others. This reflection on slowness versus speed involves obscure discussions on hedonism, the art of impressive conversation and many other perplexing theories.