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Thursday, October 10, 2013

“Laughable Loves”, Collecting Bad Jokes

Laughable Loves (Smesné Lásky, Czech original title)- Milan Kundera 
Sex is the most fun you can have without laughing” Woody Allen

Am I missing something? Because I just hated this book almost from the very beginning. Laughable? Funny? I must have a problem with my sense of humour then. "Laughable Loves" wasn't funny at all. Not in terms of style, and not in what regards to the stories that conform this forgettable (hope that happens soon, please, I want to forget it so badly) read.

First, let's talk about the style, which in my opinion poisons the book and makes it a serious struggle to read, despite being a collection of short stories and not having an extended length. It's not my first time with Kundera, so I was already aware of his prose, frequently saluted by many as philosophic, virtuoso, and enlightening. Plus, in this case, adjectives ranged from irreverent, graceful and ironic. But no, this is not ironic. It's just pedantic and boring. Sure, my preference, the literature I defend is the opposite from Kundera's style, the so called "minimalist school" (Carver, Yates, Wolff, Fante, Bukowski). But I also love McCullers, O'Connor, Fitzgerald, Cheever, and a long etc, writers that go beyond the "dirty realism" definition. Anyway, I don't believe this is an issue of personal taste. It is just a matter of Kundera "explaining us all". He is the narrator, superficially in third person, but also being omniscient to the extreme. The consequence is that the reader is unable to get into the development of the story by himself/herself. Kundera tells him what to understand, when to laugh and when to applaud the author for his wisdom. That's not funny, that's not wise. It's just annoying.

And annoying are also the vast majority of stories. Sex, love, friendship might be topics of the tales, but Kundera is not interested on his characters of developing what's going on. He just want to mock(?) about pretty silly stories to explain a paradox/contradiction. But why can't he just show it on a good story about personal relationships? Why does he have to dissect what goes on from scene to scene as if he were explain it to a baby? "The Hitchhiking Game", third tale of the collection and the strongest by far, might the best example. A young couple on holiday decide to change their "regular roles" to play a flirting game that subverts their usual behaviour, arriving to a pretty challenging, let me add depressing conclusion. The potential of the story is there, but Kundera completely ruins it by constantly shifting from one character mind to the other, to let the reader make no mistake of what he/she should think about what's going on. Same goes with "Edward and God", another interesting plot involving faith, devotion and communism as strategies to... umm.. to be clear... get laid. So, go figure what happens with the less remarkable stories: they are just weak and lame, like the tiring "Symposium" and the irritating "Let the Old Dead Make Room for the Young Dead".

A writer should not give lessons to the readers. The reader should do it by herself/himself, thanks to the quality of the story.

SCORE: 1,5/10

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