Trevor Cribben Merrill offers a bold reassessment of Milan Kundera's place in the contemporary can. 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 Kundera's fiction. Building on theorist Rene Girard's tion 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. Kundera's vels 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 Kundera's vels and a witty introduction to Girard's mimetic theory, The Book of Imitation and Desire challenges our assumptions about human motive and renews our understanding of a major contemporary 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 Superieure and went on to receive his doctorate in French Studies from UCLA, USA, where he was a Chancellor's Fellow. A two-time fellow of the Association Recherches Mimetiques in Paris, he has co-edited a book of essays by Rene Girard and collaborated on Psychopolitics (Michigan State University Press, 2012), a dialogue with psychiatrist Jean-Michel Oughourlian.