Milan Kundera on Human Rights


Some months ago, John Yoo started a conversation on conservative novels and novelists.  It was in reading the comments of this discussion that I determined to read Milan Kundera’s Immortality.  The novel is a beautiful and mesmerizing study on human nature, and in reading it I’ve been thoroughly enchanted by the way Kundera articulates the simplest of observations.   Here, for example, is Kundera on the matter of human rights:

But because people in the West are not threatened by concentration camps and are free to say and write what they want, the more the fight for human rights gains in popularity, the more it loses any concrete content, becoming a kind of universal stance of everyone toward everything, a kind of energy that turns all human desires into rights.  The world has become man’s right and everything in it has become a right: the desire for love the right to love, the desire for rest the right to rest, the desire for friendship the right to friendship, the desire to exceed the speed limit the right to exceed the speed limit, the desire for happiness the right to happiness, the desire to publish a book the right to publish a book, the desire to shout in the street in the middle of the night the right to shout in the street.

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  1. Profile Photo Member

    Guess that only those who lived in the shadows of fascism know how cold it can get . And knowing that , there is so little they take for granted .Born in the light , I’ll take the bliss of ignorance and hope to give it to my kids .

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  2. Profile Photo Inactive

    I cut my teeth on Kundera’s body of work with The Joke. It continues to impress me with its warning of the dangers of following the herd.

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  3. Profile Photo Inactive
    EThompson: I cut my teeth on Kundera’s body of work with The Joke. It continues to impress me with its’ warning of the dangers of following the herd. · 1 minute ago

    The Joke turned out to be eerily prescient.

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  4. Profile Photo Inactive

    EThompson: I cut my teeth on Kundera’s body of work with The Joke. It continues to impress me with its’ warning of the dangers of following the herd. · 1 minute ago

    The Joketurned out to be eerily prescient. · 4 minutes ago

    And in some ways, more so than even Ayn Rand’s work.

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  5. Profile Photo Contributor

    I love it. On my way to Amazon. Thanks.

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  6. Profile Photo Coolidge

    Good lord, if that doesn’t nail it, I don’t know what would. After living in Russia and coming home to see people demanding all this stuff like their lives depended on it really makes me feel shameful. Desires are not rights. Get over it spoiled brats.

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  7. Profile Photo Inactive

    I’ve returned to this post a dozen times since you posted.  I really ought to buy the book.

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  8. Profile Photo Inactive

    I read the Unbearable Lightness of Being many years ago, but it’s stayed with me.  I’ve found myself meditating on it many times.

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  9. Profile Photo Member

    Thanks, Diane.  I, too, am off to buy the book.  The evolution of desires into rights is fascinating and worthy of lots more discussion , but Kundera does, indeed, articulate it well.  

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  10. Profile Photo Contributor

    I need to get my hands on The Joke and The Unbearable Lightness of Being.  I hardly ever read two novels by the same author in a row, but Kundera is just too good.

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  11. Profile Photo Member

    Once again, a visit to Ricochet results in additions to my Amazon wish list.

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  12. Profile Photo Inactive

    I’m with Lady Bertrum on “The Unbearable Lightness of Being”: a mesmerizing book that was so much more compelling and interesting than the conventional fiction that seems to receive all the acclaim. The opening of the book grabs you with its unorthodox approach.  And it was extremely refreshing to read an author who doesn’t mince words about the human degradation that accompanies Communism.

    My two favorite lines from the book:

    “In the sunset of dissolution, everything is illuminated by the aura of nostalgia…”


    “Anyone whose goal is ‘something higher’ must expect someday to suffer vertigo.”

    A great read. You won’t be disappointed.

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  13. Profile Photo Member

    Čtu Kunderu od jeho “Žertu” z r. 1967…

    Sorry, I got carried away, so in english: I read Kundera since the “Joke” / 1967… It´s a pity he´s communist exile, and an old and, Nota Bene: WHITE man… who just writes about important things like Totalitarianism and Civilization, not gender studies or obscure women poetry… he would have had the Nobel Prize 15-20 years ago.

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  14. Profile Photo Member

    Another great Czech writer and contemporary of Kundera is Joseph Skvorecky.  His book, “The Engineer of Human Souls” is about Fascism, Communism and the naivety of American/Canadian college students in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s.  It is a great read. His book “the Miracle Game” is about the Czech spring and also about a miracle is also worth reading.

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