A Most Amazing Thing: Kundera on Flaubert

I finished Milan Kundera’s The Art of the Novel this morning on the bus and read the most amazing thing: “…the most shocking, the most scandalous thing about Flaubert’s vision of stupidity is this: Stupidity does not give way to science, technology, modernity, progress; on the contrary, it progresses right along with progress!”

Think on that for a moment. Think on the current political climate for a moment. Think on the state of discovery, of discourse, of moral compass and realize the gravity of the vision. It isn’t that stupidity is its own force, as powerful as science and advancement. It is in part fed by technology, modernity, progress, as well as a stubborn adherence to dogma, to the past, to a false idol image of the past. Stupidity reaches across the aisle of rationality and irrationality.

A colleague rhetorically asked “and why is this only by Flaubert?” It’s a good question, and in keeping with some of what The Art of the Novel asserts, this is the purpose of literature and art. Philosophy, science, religion, the whole range of rational exploration and belief based quests, even combined, cannot fully account for human existence. Literature and art isn’t a great monolith, it’s like water, filling in all the holes of human endeavor and finds the truths that are invisible to naked and the mind’s eye.

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