Kundera pleads the case of the 'small nations' of Europe who, by culture, are Western with deep roots in Europe, despite Russia imposing its own Communist political regimes in Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Ukraine, and elsewhere.
These two statements, delivered sixteen years apart, represent a compelling and coherent worldview: a defense of the small cultures of Central Europe, and an insistence on their importance to Western Europe ... Both the speech and the article continue to offer insight into contemporary debates, but there is much here with which one might disagree ... But we should welcome the context he gives for the struggles between Russia and Europe, and the plight of those caught between them. His defense of small languages, small cultures, and small nations feels pressing.
Kundera’s plea – that central Europe 'should fight not only against [the USSR] but also against the subtle, relentless pressure of time, which is leaving the era of culture in its wake' – is newly relevant today.
Lovely though brief, these essays have fresh resonance as Ukraine remains under siege by Russia. The author’s fans will best appreciate this thin book, but general readers may wish for more pieces and further context.