We don’t speak language, language speaks us. Unconscious, unexamined ideologies come out of our mouths and we feel as if we have freely uttered them, but we did not create them, they have created us. They represent invisible social forces few of us care to uncover, and it feels far more pleasant to heed their call rather than to inquire where they came from, what they mean, and why they speak us. Aldous Huxley’s chief behaviourist Mustapha Mond would have us not worry about such unpleasant things –human kind cannot bear too much reality, after all, and we all risk being metaphorically sent to Iceland if we disobey and insist upon questioning the aims of this Brave new World of ours.
So why do writers like Milan Kundera and Tom Stoppard choose exactly that unpleasant path? Do they merely wish to interrupt all the fun, fun fun (till daddy takes the T-bird away) of innocence? If all of our maps through life are revealed as defective, and so-called “post-modern” life thereby “unbearably light” the question of what we are left with is a valid one. Kundera himself implicitly asks it himself when he states that his characters explore the boundaries that lie beyond his own personality “in the trap that the world has become”. One suspects that his novel marks at least one attempt to answer the preceding question, to deal with that trap.