Narrative Control or Aesthetic Ideal: Cognitive Narrative Reading of Milan Kundera’s Life Is Elsewhere

Author: Sara Mechraoui

Keywords: mental space theory, cognitive stylistics, text world theory, Life Is Elsewhere, Milan Kundera, aesthetic ideal


This study, which is inspired by Cognitive Poetics, aims to test the feasibility of its basic methods on the analysis of Milan Kundera’s novel Life Is Elsewhere (1973). Kundera’s style seems at first plain, but greater importance was given to his philosophical and psychological treatment of subjects than the narratological world that he creates. He brilliantly mixes many narrative techniques to expose his existential and aesthetic ideals. The aesthetic value of the novel studied under the cognitive stylistic approach in this study sought answers to the following question. How can Life Is Elsewhere (1973) be read from a cognitive linguistic perspective? The findings confirmed the relevance of the cognitive poetic approach to the narrow reading of Milan Kundera’s works. Life Is Elsewhere (1973) is a merit of narrative control in that the author allows the reader to live the life story of a young poet, to appreciate his ups and downs, at the same time, read his philosophical ideas about life and his artistic control of the novel. Though a cognitively inspired approach might seem odd at the thematic level, for a purely hermeneutic researcher, the level at which both author and reader would exchange meaning from the text is catered for in the rich textual world of the novel. The latter sustains the universality of the works and confirms the suitability of the cognitive poetic framework to any piece of literature.