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the Complete Review
the complete review - literary criticism

Agnès's Final Afternoon

François Ricard

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To purchase Agnès's Final Afternoon

Title: Agnès's Final Afternoon
Author: François Ricard
Genre: Literary criticism
Written: 2003 (Eng. 2003)
Length: 206 pages
Original in: French
Availability: Agnès's Final Afternoon - US
Agnès's Final Afternoon - UK
Agnès's Final Afternoon - Canada
Le dernier après-midi d'Agnès - Canada
Le dernier après-midi d'Agnès - France
L'ultimo pomeriggio di Agnes - Italia
  • An Essay on the Work of Milan Kundera
  • French title: Le dernier après-midi d'Agnès
  • Translated by Aaron Asher

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Our Assessment:

B : fine Kundera-study, appropriately presented

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The NY Times Book Rev. . 4/1/2004 Roxana Popescu
TLS . 20/2/2004 Julia Jordan

  From the Reviews:
  • "(A)n imaginative literary essay (.....) Though the arguments are at times rushed, Ricard's writing (ably translated from the French by Aaron Asher) is usually lithe and perceptive." - Roxana Popescu, The New York Times Book Review

  • "Ricard's analysis here is revelatory, and while his idiosyncratic approach will probably raise scholarly hackles, his philosophically tinged meditations and the sweeping, brilliant statements that pepper the essay ultimately seem fitting to his equally idiosyncratic subject." - Julia Jordan, Times Literary Supplement

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Agnès's Final Afternoon takes its title from a scene in Milan Kundera's novel, Immortality. As François Ricard explains, Agnès decides to spend one more afternoon in the Swiss mountainside, rather than continuing straight on to Paris -- a decision which seems "entirely unmotivated, even illogical", and an "episode, which in a way will 'cause' Agnès's death". Ricard considers the episode: "an illustration par excellence of the Kunderian concept and practice of the art of the novel", and he uses it -- fairly effectively -- as the basis for his essay on Kundera's fiction.
       Like Kundera's own digressive meditations, with action broken up by essay and progress not always straight or forward, Ricard's study meanders agreeably around Kundera's oeuvre. Ricard finds Agnès' willingness and ability to step back, take time, and look around both representative for Kunderian characters and a useful approach to considering the works.
       Kundera is a novelist unlike most other contemporary writers. Ricard notes his affinity with the early novelists -- Rabelais, Cervantes, Sterne and the like -- where "the novel is not yet under the rule of the unity of action and dramatic tension", as well as with later, essayistically-minded authors such as Musil and Broch, and how these have influenced his distinctive approach to fiction.
       Ricard takes Kundera's work as a whole, more interested in what is common to them than the exceptions (though noting some of these as well). Favourite Kundera tricks, themes, types, and motifs are explored and compared, and Ricard does a good job of presenting the work as a sort of large tapestry, with similar designs, details, and approaches throughout.
       Kundera's two works of non-fiction, The Art of the Novel and Testaments Betrayed, are themselves useful introductions to his work and approach, but Ricard's book serves as a good complement, his focus more tightly on Kundera's own work (and taking in more of it than Kundera does in his essays). Ricard presents the material well -- but this is definitely a book that demands some familiarity with the works under discussion. One need not have read all of Kundera (as Ricard shows, there are underlying similarities across much of the oeuvre), but one should be familiar with some.
       Readers might also wish for more discussion about other aspects of Kundera's work -- more of a discussion of his switch from writing in Czech to writing in French, as well as the revisions he has made to his earlier works, for example -- but Ricard's book doesn't have quite such a wide ambit. The discussion he does offer is of interest, making for a worthwhile study of an interesting author.

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Agnès's Final Afternoon: Reviews: Milan Kundera: Books by Milan Kundera under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       François Ricard teaches French at McGill University.

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© 2003-2023 the complete review

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