Title: The Festival of Insignificance
Author: Milan Kundera
2015 – Fiction
Source: TLC Book Tours
The Story: The Festival of Insignificance is about everything – and nothing at all. Four friends tell stories, host cocktail parties, attend cocktail parties, remember their mothers, and reflect upon the seductive power of the navel.
The Opening Line: It was the month of June, the morning sun was emerging from the cloud, and Alain was walking slowly down a Paris street.
Thoughts: This is unlike any book I’ve ever read. I’m not even really sure how to write a review because I don’t really know what I read. Does that make sense? Anyway, here goes and I’ll try my best.
This novella is about four friends going about their daily lives. Many of us probably think that our daily lives are humdrum and boring, but Kundera’s novel argues that there is value in insignificance. In fact, he says, this is where the true value of our lives occurs. Not in the rare, exciting bits, but in the gritty everyday routines that we have created for ourselves. While I can’t ruminate about the importance of the navel, I do know that my best times aren’t necessarily my biggest times. What I value most is nights in with my roommates, conversations over cups of tea, playing video games on the weekends, reading a good book. In other words, the normal occurrences of my life. There’s something to be said for bigger events and moments, but we live most in the everyday, and that’s where some of our most special moments happen.
In a way, this novel reminds me of Infinite Jest. In many ways, they are polar opposites – Jest is more than 1,000 pages of convoluted plot while Festival is a novella light on plot. But, both really intrigued me and kept me hooked all the way, mostly just because I wanted to see what the author had come up with next. The many short snippets in Festival quickly switched subjects, always leaving me wondering what I would read about in the following section. I was able to fly through the book, yet I often went back to make sure I read something correctly. So the novel is very intriguing and quirky.
I’ll leave you with a short quote that summarizes Festival pretty well: “Insignificance, my friend, is the essence of existence. It is all around us, and everywhere and always.”
Now go enjoy the small, insignificant moments in your life.