The inhabitants of utopia, their creators insist, are happy. But their lives are depicted as so relentlessly public, so entirely ordered and uneventful that their posited felicity is not something that many readers would willingly share.
From Edmund Burke and Joseph de Maistre in the eighteenth century through such twentieth-century critics as Lewis Mumford, Karl Popper, and Isaiah Berlin, the utopian concept of a rationally planned or dirigiste society is viewed as one of reason’s most nightmarish monsters.
A careful reading of Kundera’s observations about the novel suggests that they do not quite cross the border to unmeaning, but in any case it is the novels themselves that embody the deeper insight, as the author himself would no doubt cheerfully concede.
Only these figures, their inner lives properly regulated, are meant by nature to rule the rest, just as the head rules the body. “A multitude,” Plato asserts, “cannot be philosophical,” a capacity reserved for a select few.