Milan Kundera - Testaments Betrayed_ Essay in Nine Parts, An (1996).pdf

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Testaments BetrayedAn Essay in Nine PartsMilan KunderaTranslated from the French by Linda AsherTESTAMENTS BETRAYED. Copyright © 1993 by Milan Kundera. Translationcopyright © 1995 by Linda Asher. FIRST EDITION
This book was originally published in France under the titleLes testaments trahis.ISBN 0060171456PART ONEThe Day Panurge No Longer Makes People Laugh 1PART TWOThe Castrating Shadow of Saint Garta 35PART THREEImprovisation in Homage to Stravinsky 55PART FOURA Sentence 99PART FIVEA la Recherche du Present Perdu 121PART SIXWorks and Spiders 147PART SEVENThe Unloved Child of the Family 179PART EIGHTPaths in the Fog 199PART NINEYou're Not in Your Own House Here, My Dear Fellow 241PART ONEThe Day Panurge No Longer Makes People LaughThe Invention of HumorThe pregnant Madame Grandgousier ate too much tripe, and they had to give her apurgative; it was so strong that the placenta let go, the fetus Gargantua slipped into avein, traveled up her system, and came out of his mania's ear. From the very first lines,Rabelais's book shows its hand: the story being told here is not serious: that is, there areno statements of truths here (scientific or mythic); no promise to describe things as theyare in reality.Rabelais's time was fortunate: the novel as butterfly is taking flight, carrying the shreds ofthe chrysalis on its back. With his giant form, Pantagruel still belongs to the past offantastic tales, while Panurge comes from the yet unknown futureofthe novel. Theextraordinary moment of the birth of a new art gives Rabelais's book an astoundingrichness; it has everything: the plausible and the implausible, allegory, satire, giants andordinary men, anecdotes, medita-tions, voyages real and fantastic, scholarly disputes, digressions of pure verbal virtuosity.Today's novelist, with his legacy from the nineteenth century, feels an envious nostalgiafor the superbly heterogeneous universe of those earliest novelists and for the delightfulliberty with which they dwelt in it.
Just as Rabelais starts his book by dropping Gargantua onto the world's stage from hismama's ear, so inThe Satanic Verses,after a midair plane explosion, do SalmanRushdie's two heroes fall through the air chattering, singing, and carrying on in comicand improbable fashion. While "above, behind, below them in the void" float recliningseats, paper cups, oxygen masks, and passengers, one of themGibreel Farishtaswims"in air, butterfly-stroke, breast-stroke, bunching himself into a ball, spreadeagling himselfagainst the almost-infinity of the almost-dawn," and the otherSaladin Chamchalike"a fastidious shadow falling headfirst in a grey suit with all the jacket buttons done up,arms by his sides. . . a bowler hat on his head." The novel opens with that scene, for, likeRabelais, Rushdie knows that the contract between the novelist and the reader must beestablished from the outset; it must be clear: the story being told here is not serious, eventhough it is about the most dreadful things.

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