gets a lot of attention in The Unbearable Lightness of Being, so you
should make sure you understand the basic concept. Kitsch is a German word
that's been adopted by a number of other languages, including English. It
refers primarily to art that is overly sentimental or melodramatic, and so
refers to aesthetics. What's interesting is the way Kundera uses the concept in
his novel, not to talk about art, but to talk about political ideology.
To begin, Kundera asserts that kitsch is an aesthetic ideal "in which shit
is denied and everyone acts as though it did not exist". He's not just
speaking literally here, but about all the bad, disgusting, negative, violent,
depressing things in the world. "Kitsch excludes everything from its purview
which is essentially unacceptable in human existence".
Kundera then moves on to politics. "Kitsch is the aesthetic ideal of all
politicians and all political parties and movements," he says. He gives
the example of politicians kissing babies as the ultimate kitschy political
how does one fight kitsch? One answer has its roots in the original, artistic
definition of kitsch as sentimental or hokey art. From this perspective, beauty
is the enemy of kitsch. The other answer has its roots in the political definition
of kitsch as forced conformity. In this sense, someone who insists on
individuality is the enemy of kitsch.
Milan Kundera - The
Unbearable Lightness of Being
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