Free Radical Radio Books Podcast 1: The Festival of Insignificance by Milan Kundera

by Ezra Buckley on June 4, 2017

This is the first episode of FRR’s new books podcast. Our goal is to discuss books(mostly fiction), especially where they intersect with our lives, nihilism, and anarchism. I(rydra) will be the most consistent host with a rotation of friends and others I find interesting broadcasting when we desire to. In this episode we discuss Milan Kundera’s final novel, “The Festival of Insignificance.” I began reading Kundera as a teenager and my fondness for him has only grown as I have slowly felt the effects of his writing, ideas, and brilliance sink into me over the years.

Tom Robbins has written that in life we start as fools and if we live the good life, we end as fools. Milan Kundera’s first novel was called “The Joke,” so it makes perfect sense that his final novel would again engage the idea of jokes, laughter, insignificance, and how to possibly live the good life. In this novel, Kundera discusses how to give birth to an apologizer, how society is an army of apologizers, why nobody got Stalin’s jokes, how our obsession with the future is really an attempt to fix the past, and so much more.

Kundera was living in Czechoslovakia when Stalin’s tanks stormed across the border and occupied his country. Shortly after he was exiled to France, which has given him a unique view on politics and history. In his writing he deconstructs History, nostalgia, identity, and is able to write with a heavy lightness that seeps deep into my bones when I read him. I’m forever grateful that he shared his thoughts because they have changed the ways I interact with society and individuals and myself more than I will ever realize. So, enjoy a discussion between September and I where we discuss what reading this book meant for us, how it relates to our anarchy, our nihilism, and our selves or lack thereof.

And in the words of Milan Kundera when speaking of the value of fiction: Suspending moral judgement not the immorality of the novel; it is its morality. The morality that stands against the ineradicable human habit of judging instantly, ceaselessly, and everyone; of judging before, and in the absence of, understanding. From the viewpoint of the novel’s wisdom, that fervid readiness to judge is the most detestable stupidity, the most pernicious evil. Not that the novelist utterly denies that moral judgement is legitimate, but that he refuses it a place in the novel.

Rape Fantasies by Margaret Atwood:
“I particularly appreciate how flippant/realistic this piece is about rape – as in, it’s a thing that happens literally all the time to pretty much everyone, and might even be “one of the most significant moment’s in a girl’s life – almost like getting married or having a baby or something”. (Get it? Get the joke? Because marriage and having babies are equally horrific things women are subjected to and fantasize about??? SAVAGE.) It’s scary and awful but that doesn’t mean it has to mean anything when it happens to you. And I mean that.

“Dwelling on [unpleasant things] doesn’t make them go away. But not dwelling on them doesn’t really make them go away, either.” So laugh and fantasize.”

The Nothingness of Personality by Borges:
Borges speaks for himself, and we listen


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