Roger Caldwell

Misunderstood Artists

Testaments Betrayed: An Essay in Nine Parts


Faber & Faber 256pp £16.99 order from our bookshop

Milan Kundera has a light touch. His novels play on ideas with an intellectual adroitness rarely to be found in Anglo-Saxon writers. They also display a sly sense of humour which is all too liable to lead to misunderstanding by less than attentive readers. The central theme of these interlinked essays is precisely those failures of understanding which tend to pervert the reception of an artist’s work. He pursues this leitmotif through the work of some of the writers and composers to whom he feels closest – here pre-eminently Kafka, Janáček and Stravinsky – but allows himself space for digression on whatever emerges en route. The transition in Kundera from novelist to essayist is an easy one. Just as the novels are full of essayistic asides, so his essays are full of novelistic episodes.

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • 'It would be nice to think that women will achieve equal pay in my lifetime, rather than to watch gloomily as stati… ,
    • In 1660, two of the signatories of King Charles I's death warrant fled across the Atlantic to New England. But were… ,
    • Howard Jacobson's sixteenth novel is 'a love story of sorts, one characterised not by physical desire or even conta… ,
    • 'The sudden immersion in the new and unfamiliar can lead people to write with a rare lack of self-consciousness' P… ,
    • 'Pools bend the rules. Clothes slip off, skin glistens, consciousness heightens. A dreamlike scenario unfolds' Jam… ,
    • 'Although he surely didn’t know W H Auden’s theory that every high C proclaims human freedom and our capacity to tr… ,
    • RT : With beginning tomorrow, we've uncovered a 1997 article from the archive reviewing 'Golf Dream… ,