Maybe living under an oppressive authoritarian regime provides some clarity. Maybe it doesn’t, but one of the things I find fascinating about overt (and especially real world) novel that take place within these kinds of regimes is that I can never truly understand how life happens there. I don’t mean the parts that happen in reaction to the regime itself. So reading a dystopian novel like 1984 or Hunger Games isn’t what I mean. Or even a real-world text like Darkness at Noon is still reactive. I mean the parts that would happen after the end of 1984 where the life itself has to be lived. Where food has to be bought, jobs have to be worked, and relationships have to happen, one way or the other.
So that brings me to this book (and others of Kundera too obviously) where we’re here and we’re watching a group of people living their lives as well or not as well as they can, but the over-arching structures are clearly just different. This is a book about sex, and violence, and at least thoughts about sexual violence, but mostly it’s a book that inhabits a living space.
I suppose the uncomfortable parts of this book come with the realization that as I mentioned in the opening that overtness provides some clarity. If you more or less know the boundaries, you can act accordingly. That’s not to suggest that in the US we live in total freedom, but more so the slow realization that the US has always felt like a dystopia to certain people, and perhaps through surveillance capitalism (and the micromanaging of movements and speech etc) more and more people will wake to that. Not me obviously. Right?