I stumbled on Kundera's writing at the San Francisco Public Library. My first book was the Curtain.
Like the Poles "I know what it means not to exist."
I've lived "the trauma of the Baroque" and witnessed the "mysterious marriage of evil and beauty."
My life and work are concerned with heathen times—those same times Kundera suggested I investigate in his love for the Icelandic Sagas: "the first great prose treasure of Europe."
I read The Curtain as a to do list: books to read, ideas to mull, the audacity to declare my position: standing in the center of the world—Navajo.
But what has me returning to Kundera again and again is his love for the novel. (I don't believe he has given it up, though he is certainly saddle sore, from the contemporary hate of language and literature.)
"To emphasize: novelistic thinking. . . is purposely a-philosophic, even anti-philosophic, that is to say fiercely independent of any system of preconceived ideas; it does not judge; it does not proclaim truths; it questions, it marvels, it plumbs; its form is highly diverse: metaphoric, fanciful; and mainly it never leaves the magic circle of its character's lives; those lives feed it and justify it." (The Curtain)
I am particularly touched by the magic circle of my character's lives. Some days they are all I have.
"Every creative person, appartently, has his own turf, and woe betide him if he strays into an area that isn't his own." (Appelfeld, Table for One)
My turf in life, and on the page, is among those despised, those who reside in a space reserved beneath humanity, the invisible, the shunned and the disregarded. Johnnie Johnson's body lies unclaimed at the county morgue. The Scalped One lives in Golden Gate park, on the outskirts of society. The child born for rape drives the highway with a collection of Maji riding shotgun. These are them, my relations, living on 6th and Market, drowning on their own blood, eating rats because they stand outside of some circle drawn, in some ways, only to exclude them and deny them a place, a simple place—acknowledging their status as kin, not stranger.
"Sometimes it is actually those people who were hurt who show us how to evaluate life. A man who has suffered is more than just a social burden—sometimes he can be the source of feelings and thoughts that rise from the depths of the soul. The sidelines of society are no less important than the social center." (Appelfeld, Table for One)
Kundera's writing opened up a world to me and invited me participate in an ongoing conversation—taking this world and revealing the ways we share insights and experiences, beyond national languages and geographies. He has forced me to study the language of music, the language of creation, and the language of extermination shared by us all—the human family.
Life or Honor: Life As Stranger is a year long collaborative project of answering back to the second world war, to extermination camps, and to policies the policies of hate and starvation. We face these now—each of us, everyone. There are only 20 days left to support this work. You may back at levels from $1 to $10,000. Direct action is easy.
Kundera Reward: Karma Positive + Access to Kickstarter Exclusive Updates + Handwritten postcard thank you from author + E-copy of book + 4" x 6" Original art created from novel (Kickstarter Exclusive) + An exchange of 2 letters between you & visual artist, Niki Lee + An exchange of 5 letters between you & author + Interactive blog interview.