Despite one of the best of all existing essays on Kafka here, and generous reference to the writers of the past that Kundera holds dearest--Sterne, Diderot, Cervantes, Hasek, Broch, Gombrowicz, Musil--there's not much doubt whose novel Kundera is most eager to explain the art of: no modern writer--at least in public--takes his own work so seriously. Kundera's love of music leads him into a long explanation of the tempo markings of individual sections of his novels (where what he believes is an architectonic polyphony develops, based on the number seven) as well as into a refurbishing of the idea of farce. For every wonderful (and not so wonderful) aspect of his late novels in particular, Kundera here has a echo from the modernist and 18th-century masters he admires, as well as from musical composition--and the utter suavity is at times hard to take. That said, however, it's also abundantly clear from the deliberate high prance of otherwise very weighty ideas that Kundera conceives of the novel as a plastic, flexible, morally unimpeachable, and completely exhilarating entity--seeing it and not poetry as the real voice of Europe in the past and in the future (unless Kundera's favorite nemesis, kitsch, is triumphant utterly). His view of modernism (one in no thrall to the idea of the future or of progress) is especially refreshing, unorthodox, valuable. And for the Kafka essay alone, the book belongs in any literary library. Incandescent illumination by one of the literature's most important voices.