Original title: Možnosti milostného románu
A novel about why one person lives with another
There is life’s truth and there is literature’s truth. Unique experience and the desire to find its meaning. There is little we can say about love that hasn’t been said already, yet each generation feels it in its own way.
The new novel by Jan Němec is about love. At first glance, it tells of the ignition of a love affair followed by the highs and lows of a six-year relationship. But the true drama is played out elsewhere – in the agonizing, insistent need to understand why it came to an end. And as the writer has but a single instrument, we witness the emergence of a novel about love from the ruins of a loving relationship. We see how every experience and every conflict has several sides, how encryption grids from other sources – ranging from the Divine Comedy to ephemera from the tabloids – are laid over them, how reality rebels and essentials keep slipping through our fingers. We see, too, how the author transforms into a character in the novel and, in a fair fight, crosses boundaries of physical and mental intimacy. If, as Milan Kundera claims, knowledge is the novel’s only morality, there is no other way.
It is hard to say whether the writing of this novel improved the author’s understanding of life. But there can be no doubt that the outcome is an extraordinary book about love and writing “in the age of digital sorrow” – a book whose openness and cultured style has the power to change the reader and take Czech literature a step further.