The Unbearable Lightness of the European Dream

“The agélastes, the non-thought of received ideas, and kitsch are one and the same, the three-headed enemy of the art born as the echo of God’s laughter, the art that created the fascinating imaginative realm where no one owns the truth and everyone has the right to be understood. That imaginative realm of tolerance was born with modern Europe, it is the very image of Europe – or at least our dream of Europe, a dream many times betrayed but nonetheless strong enough to unite us all in the fraternity that stretches far beyond the little European continent. But we know that the world where the individual is respected (the imaginative world of the novel, and the real one of Europe) is fragile and perishable. On the horizon stand armies of agélastes watching our every move.”

These are words from Milan Kundera – one of the most fascinating and lucid authors of our time – in his brilliant “The Novel and Europe” speech, which he gave upon receiving the Jerusalem Prize in 1985. Words which today sound frighteningly prophetic.