Milan Kundera, historien de la contingence // [Milan Kundera, historian of contingency]

The author, a medievalist, wants to consider Milan Kundera's first novel, The Joke, published in 1965, from a historian's point of view. Beyond the denunciation of Stalinism, the novel portrays the chaos caused by temporal change unable to allow any permanence or evolution. From then on, going from the individual to the collective becomes impossible to conceive: the essence of ordinary totalitarianism is to eliminate any possible and explicit comprehension of the ways to build a collectivity. Both in the text and in the life of the hero, the destruction of important fictional and existential mechanisms (vengeance, encounters, identity, the role of the joke) is analyzed as being as many failures of intention. Faced with chaos, the novelist and historian have to formulate hypotheses that try to go beyond individual disorder. The Joke reminds us formally that history is the science of contingence.