Book Review: The Festival of Insignificance by Milan Kundera
Oh boy, another book review! The Festival of Insignificance was courtesy of TLC Book Tours.
I jumped at the chance to review a Kundera novel. I hadn’t read any of his work since college – which, of course, was The Unbearable Lightness of Being – so I was looking forward to sitting down with some legit lit.
I was not disappointed. It’s been a long time since I’ve read a book that made me want to whip out my highlighters, and start taking down notes in the margin. This little novella was full of gems.
What did I like about this book?
Firstly, I liked the feel it gave me – of being back in college, of reading literature to learn something about myself or the author or the world (or all of the above), of walking away from a book with something new to think about.
All of that said, my something new to think about that I tok away from the book boils down to one word: existence. Existence and its relative insignificance, to be precise. Not in a negative way, though. Rather, it’s a fact – as life goes on, we fade out of notice and eventually we either are no longer a part of memory, or we are but the memories aren’t true to reality.
I love the absurdity of this idea – that we embrace our insignificant existences and in the process, the freedom we experience by acknowledging just how insignificant we are allows us to take joy in the little things in life. But it also allows us to look at events – both big and small – and see them for what they are… nothing, in the grand scheme of things. Absolutely nothing.
This reminds me of Beckett (whose works I actually could not stand when I read them in college…), Waiting for Godot – the absurdity of waiting and nothing happening, but continuing to wait for someone or something who is not coming, and in the process reducing your life to nothing. Yet you’re afraid to move on, afraid to miss what you’re waiting for. Kundera is telling us to do the opposite – live your life, knowing full well that your existence is small and will ultimately disappear. Is there freedom in saying that out loud – that your memory won’t amount to much, so live now while you can? It’s a sad thought.
It’s not all sadness in the book, though. There’s a lot of humor, a lot of moments where I literally laughed out loud. And, going back to the absurdity of this whole novella, I liked that there’s even humor in the fact that there’s basically no plot. There is really no point… there is no central story moving the characters along. They’re all average guys, just living their lives.
What did I not like about this book?
Sometimes the absurdity gets to you, but that’s just personal preference. You just have to take things like this the way they are, and that’s that.
Any favorite quotes?
I think this one pretty adequately sums it up –
But it is not only a matter of acknowledging it, we must love insignificance, we must learn to love it.
Do I recommend this book?
If you’d like a read that will challenge you a little, yes I do recommend it! Don’t walk into it expecting it to be lighthearted, though.