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“And in my view,” Charles says, “that’s the beginning of a whole new period in history.” “That scene was prophetic! He was still a boy when the Germans occupied the country, and after the Second World War he became an ardent communist and an even more ardent poet.He initially welcomed the 1948 communist coup and wrote some unabashedly propagandistic poems.
It is D’Ardelo who throws the party that is the novel’s Fellini-esque set piece.
Working as a lecturer, Kundera began writing plays, short stories and literary criticism.
By the Sixties he was an important figure in the liberalisation movement that culminated in the Prague Spring of 1968.
Yet as he has got older, his books have got sparer, a trend that correlates with the time he began to write directly in French rather than Czech.
The Festival of Insignificance is a work so bizarre and angular that, despite its brevity, it defies straightforward summary.
The playful tone is set: the novel begins with a display of self-conscious navel-gazing.
D’Ardelo bumps into Ramon, lies about his cancer, and asks him if he has a friend who can do the catering for his party. Charles employs Caliban, an out-of-work actor who got his nickname from his performance in The Tempest, as a waiter. So it transpires that Charles has been given a copy of Khrushchev’s memoirs by… Charles has become obsessed with an anecdote about Stalin telling his politburo about a hunting expedition in which he came across 24 partridges in a tree.Only Milan Kundera could title what is likely to be his final book The Festival of Insignificance.At 86 he has lost none of his delight in subverting expectations, and rather than deliver a work of testamentary grandeur, he has decided to sign off with something strange and slight.He refused to compromise with the censors, and in 1967 made a speech denouncing censorship at the Congress of Czech Writers.His lack of compromise paid off when The Joke was published in 1967 without cuts, despite months spent languishing in the censor’s office.There is also a chap called, preposterously, Quaquelique, a friend of Ramon who seduces women through his very insignificance.