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Guy Scarpetta on Milan Kundera
There is an interesting way of looking at the role of public libraries. Its basis may be found in a new essay by Guy Scarpetta published in the June 2005 issue of Le Monde diplomatique . The essay looks at the ideas of the novelist Milan Kundera. Here are the main points from the essay.
For Kundera, the novel, like all art, involves a continuous creative process and incessant discovery. The novel is charged with exploring areas of reality (or human experience) that other types of interpretation (philosophy, religion, sociology, psychology) cannot.
There are still novelists who share an insatiable need to explore and discover.
Far from promoting "truths", the intention of the novelist is to insert doubts, ambiguities, questions and paradoxes.
The novel should reveal new aspects of the human condition - those zones
Kundera declines to say, but allows you to think, that it is no coincidence that some of the most important novels of the 21st century are meant to rip away the curtain to reveal the fallacies of great debates; he includes include Crab by Günter Grass, Disgrace by JM Coetzee, The Human Stain by Philip Roth, and The Feast of the Goat by Mario Vargas Llosa.
The novel implies a wisdom, an understanding, that demystifies the world. It even implies a way of life. Since its birth in late 16th-century Europe, it has contributed to our civilisation by challenging orthodoxies.
This role is now threatened with the general triumph of a subculture marginalising the novel, seeking to evict its irony, questioning and lucidity from our lives.
You can't help feeling that the new market hegemony has every interest in seeing the values upheld by the novel supplanted by a soft-centred events culture. Kundera's great merit is to remind us that the novel, when it avoids being branded as merchandise remains an incomparable instrument of personal resistance to a world where, as he writes, "commercial stupidity has replaced ideological stupidity".
The role of the library is to help the common man "in his need to explore and discover." Everyday our job in the library (through our book stock) must be (according to this essay) to "reveal new aspects of the human condition - those zones of incertitude, indecision and paradox."
There is a danger that the more humanistic role of the library will be threatened with the general triumph of a subculture which marginalsies books and reading and exploration, and seeks to evict irony, questioning and lucidity from our lives.
I think that it is vital for us that the public library remains an "incomparable instrument of personal resistance to a world where commercial stupidity has replaced ideological stupidity."