Synopses & Reviews
Trevor Cribben Merrill offers a bold reassessment of Milan Kunderas place in the contemporary canon. Harold Bloom and others have dismissed the Franco-Czech author as a maker of “period pieces” that lost currency once the Berlin Wall fell. Merrill refutes this view, revealing a previously unexplored dimension of Kunderas fiction. Building on theorist René Girards notion of “triangular desire,” he shows that modern classics such as The Unbearable Lightness of Being and The Book of Laughter and Forgetting display a counterintuitive—and bitterly funny—understanding of human attraction.
Most works of fiction (and most movies, too) depict passionate feelings as deeply authentic and spontaneous. Kunderas novels and short stories overturn this romantic dogma. A pounding heart and sweaty palms could mean that we have found “the One” at last—or they could attest to the influence of a model whose desires we are unconsciously borrowing: our amorous predilections may owe less to personal taste or physical chemistry than they do to imitative desire.
At once a comprehensive survey of Kunderas novels and a witty introduction to Girards mimetic theory, The Book of Imitation and Desire challenges our assumptions about human motive and renews our understanding of a major contemporary author.
About the Author
Trevor Cribben Merrill is Lecturer in French at the California Institute of Technology and sits on the Research Committee of Imitatio: Integrating the Human Sciences. He studied literature at Yale University and the Ecole Normale Supérieure and went on to receive his doctorate in French Studies from UCLA, USA, where he was a Chancellors Fellow. A two-time fellow of the Association Recherches Mimétiques in Paris, he has co-edited a book of essays by René Girard and collaborated on Psychopolitics (Michigan State University Press, 2012), a dialogue with psychiatrist Jean-Michel Oughourlian.
Table of Contents
Foreword by Andrew McKennaAuthors PrefaceI. “WOMEN LOOK FOR MEN WHO HAVE HAD BEAUTIFUL WOMEN” II. INTO THE LABYRINTH OF VALUES 1. The Transfiguration of the Object 2. Metamorphoses of Kristyna 3. “An Imitation of Feeling” III. FROM IMITATION TO RIVALRY 1. The Shift from Admiration to Envy 2. Deceit, Desire, and the Plight of the Aging Don Juan 3. Rivalry and the Transfiguration of the Object 4. “The Younger Sister Imitated the Elder” 5. Publish or Perish IV. THE MODEL AS OBSTACLE 1. Strategies of Revelation 2. The Art of Polyphonic Comparison 3. A Little Theory of Resentment 4. Litost in the Underground V. JEALOUSY AND ITS METAPHORS 1. The Game Gone Awry 2. The Metaphors of Jealousy 3. “A Test That Gauged Her Susceptibility To Seduction”VI. THE QUADRILLE OF DESIRE 1. Sex as Theater 2. Acute Rivalry and Homosexual Attraction 3. The Geometry of Sadomasochism VII. AT THE HEART OF THE LABYRINTH 1. “The Thousand-Headed Dragon”2. “The Cement of their Brotherhood”3. The Two Temptations4. “The Absolute Denial of Shit” 5. First Time As Tragedy, Second Time As Farce VIII. REPUDIATING THE MODEL 1. Eduards Smile 2. From Hatred to Compassion 3. Karenins Smile 4. The Birth of a Novelist 5. Liberating Exiles IX. TOMAS IN COLONUS, OR THE WISDOM OF THE NOVEL Postscript: A Response to Elif BatumanAppendix: A Brief Overview of Kunderas Life and WorksNotesBibliographyIndex