While not all literary fictions teach us valuable truths about life and the world, this expectation is what makes most of us read them. Literary texts communicate their truths in various ways, but what all of them have in common is that their truths are irreducible to unequivocal statements and propositions. The fact that narrative operation often implies a poetics of truth telling makes literary narratives—and complex novels, above all—a privileged genre for conveying insights about life and the world, especially at a time when we no longer believe in one absolute truth universally applicable to everyone. Milan Kundera's The Unbearable Lightness of Being is an exemplary case. Instead of telling us in what to believe and how to act, this novel obliquely offers a more general kind of truth and attitude toward life: it proposes that life is better lived if we dispense with the need to be recognized, accepted, and valued by others. Far from any didacticism, however, the way this truth is communicated underscores the individual process of reaching it in and even beyond the reading.
Daniel Just; Milan Kundera and the Poetics of Novelistic Truth. Poetics Today 1 September 2015; 36 (3): 175–200. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/03335372-3160721
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