Karenin

In The Unberable Lightness of Being, Milan Kundera describes an encounter between Tereza and one of her neighbours while she walked with her beloved dying dog, Karenin:

“Along the way, they met a neighbour who was hurrying off to a cow shed in her rubber boots. The woman stopped long enough to ask. ‘What’s wrong with the dog? It seems to be limping. ‘He has cancer,’ said Tereza. ‘There’s no hope.’ And the lump in her throat kept her from going on. The woman noticed Tereza’s tears and nearly lost her temper: ‘Good heavens! Don’t tell me you’re going to bawl your head off over a dog!’ She was not being vicious; she was a kind woman and merely wanted to comfort Tereza. Tereza understood, and had spent enough time in the country to realize that if the local inhabitants loved every rabbit as she loved Karenin, they would be unable to kill any of them and they and their animals would soon starve to heath. Still, the woman’s words struck her as less than friendly. ‘I understand,’ she answered without protest, but quickly turned her back and went her way. The love she bore her dog made her feel cut off, isolated. With a sad smile, she told herself that she needed to hide it more than she would an affair. People are indignant at the thought of someone loving a dog. But if the neighbour had discovered that Tereza had been unfaithful to Tomas, she would have given Tereza a playful pat on the back as a sign of secret solidarity.”

Walking the Dog. Keith Arnatt. 1976-9.

Walking the Dog. Keith Arnatt. 1976-9.

God saw I was Dog / Dog saw I was God. Peter A Hutchinson. 1975

God saw I was Dog / Dog saw I was God. Peter A Hutchinson. 1975

Kundera also talks about man’s dominion over animals:

“The very beginning of Genesis tells us that God created man in order to give him dominion over fish and fowl and all creatures. Of course, Genesis was written by a man, not a horse. There is no certainty that God actually did grant man dominion over other creatures. What seems more likely, in fact, is that man invented God to sanctify the dominion he had usurped for himself over the cow and the horse. Yes, the right to kill a deer or a cow is the only thing that mankind can agree upon, even during the bloodiest of wars. The reason we take that right for granted is that we stand at the top of that hierarchy. But let a third party enter the game –a visitor from another planet, for example, someone to whom God says, ‘Thou shalt have dominion over creatures of all other stars’ — and all at once taking Genesis for granted becomes problematical. Perhaps a man hitched to the cart of a Martian or roasted on the spit by inhabitants of the Milky Way will recall the veal cutlet he used to slice on his dinner plate and apologize (belatedly!) to the cow.”


Poetic Memory

An extract from The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera:

“The brain appears to possess a special area which we might call poetic memory and which records everything that charms or touches us, that makes our lives beautiful … Love begins with a metaphor. Which is to say, love begins at the point when a woman enters her first word into our poetic memory.”


Vanity

“Your dirty firngernails and torn sweater are not new under the sun […] Long ago one of the cynic philosophers strutted through the streets of Athens in a torn mantle to make himself admired by everyone for displaying his contempt for convention. One day Socrates met him and said: ‘I see your vanity through the hole in your mantle.’ Your dirt too, sir, is vanity, and your vanity is dirt.”

From Farewell Waltz by Milan Kundera.