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1. Encounter
2. Identity: A Novel
3. Ignorance: A Novel
4. The Book of Laughter and Forgetting
5. Testaments Betrayed: Essay in
6. Life Is Elsewhere
7. Laughable Loves
8. Slowness: A Novel
9. The Curtain: An Essay in Seven
10. The Unbearable Lightness of Being:
11. Insoportable levedad del ser,
12. Immortality (Perennial Classics)
13. Translating Milan Kundera (Topics
14. The Art of the Novel (Perennial
15. Working Knowledge
16. Jacques & His Master
17. Milan Kundera (Bloom's Modern
18. Identity
19. The Joke,1983 publication
20. Novels by Milan Kundera (Study

1. Encounter
by Milan Kundera
Hardcover: 192 Pages (2010-09-01)
list price: US$23.99 -- used & new: US$11.99
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0061894419
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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A brilliant new contribution to Kundera's ongoing reflections on art and artists, written with unparalleled insight, authority, and range of reference and allusion

Milan Kundera's new collection of essays is a passionate defense of art in an era that, he argues, no longer values art or beauty. With the same dazzling mix of emotion and idea that characterizes his novels, Kundera revisits the artists who remain important to him and whose works help us better understand the world we live in and what it means to be human. An astute reader of fiction, Kundera brings his extraordinary critical gifts to bear on the paintings of Francis Bacon, the music of Leos Janacek, and the films of Federico Fellini, as well as the novels of Philip Roth, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, and Gabriel GarcÍa MÁrquez, among others. He also takes up the challenge of restoring to its rightful place the work of Anatole France and Curzio Malaparte, major writers who have fallen into obscurity.

Milan Kundera's signature themes of memory and forgetting, the experience of exile, and the championing of modernist art are here, along with more personal reflections and stories. Encounter is a work of great humanism. Art is what we possess in the face of evil and the darker side of human nature. Elegant, startlingly original, and provocative, Encounter follows in the footsteps of Kundera's earlier essay collections, The Art of the Novel, Testaments Betrayed, and The Curtain.

... Read more

Customer Reviews (2)

4-0 out of 5 stars Kundera Kontinues Kritiques
Milan Kundera continues his penetrating cultural commentaries with ENCOUNTER. The only drawback for this American is Kundera's focus on less well-known European writers and history.

4-0 out of 5 stars Beautiful Like A Multiple Encounter
Milan Kundera's newest foray into the essay, "Encounter," continues his critical engagement with the history and aesthetic of the European novel and the place and importance of art today.It contains four longer essays (fifteen to twenty pages each) on, respectively, the art of Francis Bacon, an "homage" to Anatole France, the artistic sensibilities of particular Martinican poets (Aime Cesair among them), and Curzio Malaparte's novel "The Skin."Most of these essays, however, are occasional pieces which rarely exceed four or five pages in length.Because of their length, they are almost necessarily underdeveloped.Many of these shorter pieces should have been made more substantial and elaborated upon.Kundera's insight and coolly analytical approach would have greatly benefitted the ideas they were lavished upon, as in the longer essays.If anything, that would be the one thing that I would change about this collection.

That having been said, there are a great many things of particular interest in this book.In his first substantial essay - the one on Bacon - he states a distinct paradox that all artists confront in the pursuit of their craft (see below for the extent to which one of the main concerns of this text is paradox): how does one capture the essence of a human (in this case, the work in question is Bacon's triptych of Henrietta Moraes) whose very essence is accidental?Kundera's answer is that Bacon distorts and contorts the images of people to see to what someone can have this done to them, but still maintain their identity; Kundera calls this Bacon's "brutal gesture."

One of the most fascinating pieces is "The Comical Absence of the Comical" in which he discusses how our mundane understanding of the word "comic" as "provoked by something amusing or comical" is sadly incomplete.He examines several instances in the novels of Dostoyevsky in which characters laugh in the most awkward and tragic of circumstances, as when Prince Mishkin is castigated by Aglaia by a "severe laughter" for having the bad taste to fall asleep while waiting for her.This is not a laughter whose provenance is in the human sense of the comic, but rather one that punishes, de-situates and reorganizes our response to this scene.

The extended essay on the work of Anatole France, while thematically disorganized and rather discursive, is largely an account of certain aspects of France's novel "The Gods Are Thirsty."The essay also incorporates a Surrealist critique of France, spearheaded by Paul Valery, who would later fill France's chair at the Academie Francaise upon the novelist's death.Andre Breton's critique impugned France for his "skepticism, realism, and heartlessness," though Kundera makes an intelligent argument for France's "cohabitation of unbearably dramatic history with unbearable, banal dailiness, a cohabitation that sparkles with irony."These interesting juxtapositions, as mentioned above, perennially interest Kundera throughout the collection as when, in a highly thoughtful essay on the work of Leos Janacek, Kundera concludes that "Janacek has managed to say what only an opera can say: the unbearable nostalgia of insignificant talk at an inn [he is referencing a scene from Janacek's "Cunning Little Vixen"] cannot be expressed any other way than by opera: the music becomes the fourth dimension of a situation which without it would remain anodyne, unnoticed, mute."

In the last paragraph of the entire book, Kundera ties together two of the themes that have informed not just this collection of his essays, but his entire body of work: the history of Europe and the perceived profound ordinariness of truth."The war's closing moments bring out a truth that is both fundamental and banal, both eternal and disregarded: compared with the living, the dead have an overwhelming numerical superiority, not just the dead of this war's end but all the dead of all times, the dead of the past, the dead of the future; confident in their superiority, they mock us, they mock this little island of time we live on, this tiny time of the new Europe, they force us to grasp all its insignificance, all its transience."
... Read more

2. Identity: A Novel
by Milan Kundera
Paperback: 176 Pages (1999-05-01)
list price: US$13.00 -- used & new: US$4.00
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0060930314
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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Editorial Review

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There are situations in which we fail for a moment to recognize the person we are with, in which the identity of the other is erased while we simultaneously doubt our own. This also happens with couples--indeed, above all with couples, because lovers fear more than anything else "losing sight" of the loved one.

With stunning artfulness in expanding and playing variations on the meaningful moment, Milan Kundera has made this situation--and the vague sense of panic it inspires--the very fabric of his new novel. Here brevity goes hand in hand with intensity, and a moment of bewilderment marks the start of a labyrinthine journey during which the reader repeatedly crosses the border between the real and the unreal, between what occurs in the world outside and what the mind creates in its solitude.

Of all contemporary writers, only Kundera can transform such a hidden and disconcerting perception into the material for a novel, one of his finest, most painful, and most enlightening. Which, surprisingly, turns out to be a love story.Amazon.com Review
The reader sits down to dinner with Chantal, who is waitingfor her lover, Jean-Marc, in a seaside hotel. While waiting to beserved, she overhears two waitresses discuss the unexplaineddisappearance of a family man. This blatant foreshadowing posits thecentral question of Identity: what we think we know about ourintimates is predicated on projection, primal yearnings, and the deepdenial of life's impermanence. Identity reads like a musicalexercise; its playing out of themes is reminiscent of a fugue. Animage dropped into the narrative will be revisited from a differentvantage point, tossed back and forth between the lovers; out of itwill be teased every possible meaning. The 51 sparse, tiny chaptersreinforce the fuguelike feel.

The plot is simple: Jean-Marcarrives at the hotel; Chantal is out walking. Near misses and mistakenidentities characterize his frantic search for her, offering Kunderathe opportunity to philosophize on the unknowability of the"other." They reunite; Chantal blurts out the distressingthought that's plagued her day: "Men don't turn to look at meanymore." This launches the protagonists into sketchy flashbacks,stilted dialogues, and interior monologues, all loosely bound by theirembarkation on an erotic journey.

Key bits from the characters'pasts become signature refrains. Chantal, for example, has buried ason, who died at the age of 5. Strands such as this are droppedlightly in the narrative, to be pulled through later chapters like aneedle with different colored threads. Later, for example, the boy'sdeath will trigger her unpleasant realization--that it was, in theend, a "dreadful gift." Children, she thinks, keep ushopeful in the world, because "it's impossible to have a childand despise the world as it is; that's the world we've put the childinto." Thus, her child's death has set her free to live out hergenuine disdain of the world. Although the illogical extremes ofKundera's thought can be wildly dissonant and wondrously shocking,this reiterative device of Identity lacks energy. There's nosense of discovery about these characters. They remain flat; the styleeffects one like an Ingmar Bergman film when one is in the mood forSam Peckinpah.

As if in serendipitous response to her pain ingetting older, Chantal receives an anonymous "love"note. More notes follow. Will they prove Jean-Marc's attempt tosweeten her sad disclosure? Her sexual awakening begins to blur theboundaries of what's real. All well and good, but somewhere along theline, Kundera concludes that Chantal is weak because she's older. Age,we are asked to believe, becomes a wedge between the lovers, eventhough Chantal is only a few years older than Jean-Marc, who ishimself only 42. And in the exploration of her sexuality on the waxand wane, Kundera succumbs to cliché: she is consumed too often by toomany flames, and red is all used up as a symbol of violent passion. Onthe subject of male and female desire, Kundera is incomparably funny,and the novel sports some nervy images--masturbating fetuses; ourhuman community joined in a sea of saliva; the ubiquity of spyingeyes, harvesting information for profit; the human gaze itself, amarvel, jaggedly interrupted by the mechanical action of theblink. Kundera betrays a witty revulsion for the values and mores ofthe late 20th century.

But with sentences such as, "This isthe real and the only reason for friendship: to provide a mirror sothe other person can contemplate his image from the past, which,without the eternal blah-blah of memories between pals, would long agohave disappeared," the reading experience reduces to anannoyance. Perhaps this is the fault of the translator attempting abreezy, colloquial tone. But it's sloppy and careless. Still thenovel's an entertainment, a good companion. Reading it is like passingan afternoon in a sidewalk café, catching up with an oldfriend, say, with whom one has shared youthful cynicism and diatribesagainst the ignominies of human behavior. One will look back on suchan afternoon and remember too many Galloises smoked, too many cups ofcoffee, moments of intense engagement that fell, alas, into theindulgence of a "retro" ennui. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (48)

3-0 out of 5 stars The Beginning is Strong
Throughout this book the characters evolve.We continue to learn more about their difference in age, life experience, income and self image at an even pace.Based on characters, this has the potential of being a five star book.

As to plot, the book has a strong start.The story of the letters, their mystery, their impact on Chantel and the timing and means of exposing their origin is well executed.Once the origin of the letters is exposed, the surreal takes over.While pieces of this part have well crafted dialog, the overall introduction and staging of this part of the plot does not meet standard set in the beginning of this short novel.

This is the only Kundera book I've read.I wasn't totally satisfied, but will read another.

5-0 out of 5 stars A Lesson for Lovers.
Milan Kundera published Identity (L'Identité) after moving to France from Czechoslovakia in 1975.Kundera is perhaps best known for his 1984 novel, The Unbearable Lightness of Being.Two things make Identity unique. It is arguably the most traditional novel Kundera has written to date, and at 176 pages in length, it is also among his shortest works.It tells the simple story of a recently divorced ad executive, Chantal, who meets her younger lover, Jean-Marc at a seaside hotel.While Chantal is out walking, Jean-Marc searches for her.She wonders why "men don't turn to look at [her] anymore," contemplating the possibility that she is now too old to be considered attractive by other men. She defines herself through the perceptions of others, until she begins receiving love notes from an anonymous admirer.Chantal hides the letters from Jean-Marc and fantasizes about each new man she encounters, wondering if he is her secret admirer.The two protagonists reveal Kundera's brilliant mind at work in contemplating whether it is ever possible to know the intimate object of one's love, further complicated by the impermanent nature of identity.While Identity may not be Kundera at his best (for that, read The Unbearable Lightness of Being), it is nevertheless worth the investment of an afternoon or late night reading a short novel by a truly unique writer.Trust me.Even when Kundera is not at his best, he is still better by far than other writers at their best.

G. Merritt

2-0 out of 5 stars Weird
Who talks like the characters in this book? Are there really people in the world who do? And where are they so I can smack all the self-pity right out of them?!
All I could think while I read this book was, "These people need to get a hobby or something because they have way too much time on their hands."

2-0 out of 5 stars Weak for Kundera
Years ago, I had read the first few chapters of The Unbearable Lightness of Being in a bookstore. The words stayed with me always, until years later when I actually had the opportunity to complete the reading. Identity had a different effect. I chose it for a train ride because the book I was really searching for was not in stock. Unfortunately, I'm quite disappointed.

Kundera's characters are not believable. Then again, I understand why. This is Kundera we're talking about. I believe his emphasis usually to be on what he writes about the world and psychology. Less importance is given to how it is actually told (in my mere judgment). Honestly, not only have I yet to meet anyone who converses like either Chantal or Jean-Marc, the two protagonists are also boring and not relatable. By about the 24th (or so) chapter I found myself gauging the thickness of progress I've made in the pages versus how thick the book is, and was happy to realize that Identity is a short novel.

Chantal is average. I understand the importance of using everyday subjects in writing about life's generalities and quirks, which is how I generally view Kundera as a writer. I think it can be agreed upon that he writes his personal takes on psychology through characters and in fiction form. However, Chantal isn't even pleasantly average. We know nothing about her all the way until about chapter 42 when she begins fantasizing awkward sexual situations while riding a train into England from Paris for initial reasons obscure.

The plot is boring. Basically, a woman receives admiration letters in her mailbox each morning--which, by the way, we knew were from her existing boyfriend the second we read the first instance, yet it takes half the novel to reveal this information. Whether or not Kundera wanted his readers to know more than Chantal is ambiguous to me. Perhaps her ignorance and continual fantasies about whom the author of her letters could be is more of a testament to her weakness and susceptibility as an older woman than I had previously realized. Either way, the subject is irritating, and upon hearing the fuss about her first letter, I had no idea that this was the entire plot of the novel. Then it never went away.

When the woman (Chantal) realizes that her boyfriend has been making a checkpoint of her hiding spot for these letters (and consequently realizes that he has been writing them himself), she is offended, and he confused, for the woman he believes to be his loved one would never hide silly letters from him. Thus, he questions her identity, all in a short chapter-long internal struggle leading well, nowhere. Immediately following: an awkward and unnecessary run-in with Chantal's previous family. It is Chantal, however, who instigates the couple's separation.

I get it, I get it. Chantal in the beginning is not Chantal at the end. Somewhere along the line fantasy intrudes the (mediocre) story we had been reading. Parts are clever, but 80 percent of the book is a bore, frankly. There are some good quotes, but the story is not memorable enough for my taste. I particularly liked, "That is why she dislikes dreams: they impose an unacceptable equivalence among the various periods of the same life, a leveling contemporaneity of everything a person has ever experienced; they discredit the present by denying it its privileged status" (5). Also, "That `and that's how time goes by for them' is a fundamental line. Their problem is time--how to make time go by, go by on its own, by itself, with no effort from them, without their being required to get through it themselves" (79). I'm sort of glad to be through with Identity but I'll keep reading Kundera--my impression for this one is just weak.

5-0 out of 5 stars Another Masterpiece of Introspection
This is one of the first novelas Kundera has written in French, and is certainly among the best in his long series of observations of human nature. Although all the novelas exist in the shadow of Kundera's great full length novels, The Unbearable Lightness of Being and Immortality, they are all literary gems well worth reading. ... Read more

3. Ignorance: A Novel
by Milan Kundera
Paperback: 208 Pages (2003-10-01)
list price: US$13.99 -- used & new: US$6.95
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0060002107
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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Editorial Review

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Irena and Josef meet by chance while returning to their homeland, which they had abandoned twenty years earlier. Will they manage to pick up the thread of their strange love story, interrupted almost as soon as it began and then lost in the tides of history? The truth is that after such a long absence "their memories no longer match."

Amazon.com Review
Bypassing the question of whether you can ever go home again, Milan Kundera's Ignorance tackles instead what happens when you actually get there. Ignorance is the story of two Czechs who meet by chance while traveling back to their homeland after 20 years in exile. Irena, who fled the country in 1968 with her now-deceased husband Martin, returns to Prague only to find coldness and indifference on the part of her former friends. Josef, who emigrated after the Russian invasion, is back in Prague to fulfill a wish of his beloved late wife. As fate would have it, the two have met before in their former lives, and the before-skirted passionate encounter is now destined to transpire. However, as in the story of Odysseus, which this novel so deliberately parallels, every homecoming brings with it a conflicting set of emotions so powerful that one has to question whether the voyage is really worth the pain. Expertly tackling the philosophical and emotional themes of nostalgia, memory, love, loss, and endurance, Kundera continues to astound readers with his masterful ability to understand and articulate issues so central to the human condition. --Gisele Toueg ... Read more

Customer Reviews (40)

5-0 out of 5 stars How memory works
The protagonist, Irena, has returned to Prague form a twenty year exile in Paris. The title and subject of Kundera's book should be of great interest to those folks who suffer from its premise: that we tend to avoid bad memories, employing selective memory or denial as to past actions and their consequences. The current political climate in the US might be a perfect metaphor, but this story is on a more personal, individual level.
The clichéd thought that one can never go back is germane to the story. This is expertly detailed in a scene where Irena fetes all of her old friends at a soiree where she serves good French wine and expensive food only to learn that they are singularly unimpressed with all that her émigré experience has meant to her. Even more disturbing is that their old political dissidence has been replaced with a bourgeois attitude not unlike hers. It is almost as if they are saying, "Why did you bother to leave."
The rekindling of an old flame from her school days is even more painful. She encounters Joseph who has also returned from exile. Their memories of the past and what they mean to them are quite different. Their encounter leaves us with a feeling of emptiness. The book encapsulates what many of us experience with the passing of time. It seems that no one wants to remember the good times or the bad, preferring to plunge blindly ahead into the future.

Michael D. Edwards, Author of the recently released "Royal Ryukian Blues" a memoir of Okinawa.

5-0 out of 5 stars Exile equals death
This book is Milan Kundera's variation on the Odyssey theme, exemplified in the fate of his home country the Czech Republic and its inhabitants.

Many Czechs emigrated during the revolution of 1968 as they saw their future in their country as very bleak. But, the situation changed completely after the Fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. The Czech Republic became again a completely independent, free and multi-party State.
During the emigration years, the general mood of the emigrants was `nostalgia', the pain of ignorance, of not knowing what happened in their far away country.

When they went back after the Fall of the Berlin Wall, they saw amazingly that they no longer existed for their relatives: `he had the sense he was coming back into the world as might a dead man emerging from his tomb.'
Former lovers didn't know each other anymore: `a reality is no longer what it was when it was; it cannot be reconstituted.'
Even legally, the emigrants didn't exist anymore. After 1989, all properties nationalized under the communist regime were returned to their former owners (or their children). This restitution became irrevocable after one year, if the claim was not contested.

This book is a strong meditation on human memory (`which is only capable of retaining a paltry little scrap of the past') and on man's fate (`If we do not know what future the present is leading us toward, how can we say whether this present is good or bad.')

It is a perfect introduction to Milan Kundera's literary universe dominated by such cardinal themes as the enigma of the self, the ineluctable defeat called life, memory and forgetting, and freedom of man and of expression (literature).
A must read for all lovers of world literature.

2-0 out of 5 stars Snooze
In Ignorance the lovers end up meeting, having a brief romantic reunion in real life, then part again, with a bit better of a feeling about themselves. Of course, Kundera goes off on his now almost predictable digressions, and they are among his better ones in recent books. Lightman- well, he has written a novel that seems adapted from a bad 1970s television movie of the week. His sentences are larded with clichés, and those that are not describe a world that is barren in detail and intellect. I could picture Robert Conrad as Charles the elder, and a young Nicollete Sheridan as Juliana- the perfectly narcotized bimbo that Lightman doesn't realize his creation is. Who cares who would be the young Charles? He'd just end up in Diet Pepsi ads....Kundera's book is a mildly entertaining New Yorker story, if cut to its actual good length of a quarter its size....despite this book's handful of good moments it's time for him to not pick up his pen until he really has something new to say, narratively or philosophically. Is a one night stand really the best he can offer? Kundera is merely a weak shadow of his former greatness. My guess is this is his last even decent tale.

4-0 out of 5 stars another persons shoes
This was an account of the move from one world to another and how if affected both the person who left for a better life and those who were left behind. It is a good way to see the world through the eyes of an emigre and the deep changes such a move creates in relationships among friends and family.

4-0 out of 5 stars Nostalgia ("nostos"-return, "algos"-suffering)
It's been a while since I've read Milan Kundera but I'm glad I've started reading his recent work.I loved THE UNBEARABLE LIGHTNESS OF BEING years ago.

I picked up IGNORANCE because I was intrigued with the idea of two Czechs returning to their homeland after 20 years and resuming their relationship.While the novel doesn't chronicle the "love story" between Irena and Josef (most of the novel traces their journeys home that leads to their meeting), it does expose how unreliable our memories and interactions can be.
What we've done, what we remember, how we move on.
As usual, Kundera delivers more than what I was looking for. ... Read more

4. The Book of Laughter and Forgetting
by Milan Kundera
Paperback: 320 Pages (1999-05-01)
list price: US$13.99 -- used & new: US$4.11
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0060932147
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Canada | United Kingdom | Germany | France | Japan
Editorial Review

Product Description
Rich in its stories, characters, and imaginative range, The Book of Laughter and Forgettingis the novel that brought Milan Kundera his first big international success in the late 1970s. Like all his work, it is valuable for far more than its historical implications. In seven wonderfully integrated parts, different aspects of human existence are magnified and reduced, reordered and emphasized, newly examined, analyzed, and experienced.Amazon.com Review
In one of the finer modern ironies of the life-imitates-artsort, the country that Kundera seemed to be writing about when hetalked about Czechoslovakia is, thanks to the latest politicalredefinitions, no longer precisely there. This kind of disappearanceand reappearance is, partly, what Kundera explores in The Book ofLaughter and Forgetting. In this polymorphous work -- now a novel,now autobiography, now a philosophical treatise -- Kundera discusseslife, music, sex, philosophy, literature and politics in ways that arerarely politically correct, never classifiable but always original,entertaining and definitely brilliant. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (60)

5-0 out of 5 stars Art in Practice
Milan Kundera is one of the more innovative writers of the 20th century. He treats the writing of a novel as artfully as sculptor or a painter. He dances his way across a wide array of concepts to bring in focus upon the main title themes of laughter and forgetting.

The narratives in this book are separate and unrelated, except by theme.

An expert at creating a scene aimed to raise a specific emotion in the reader, Kundera assembles characters to interact in ways which best illustrate the central themes. He is a master of tension. Although this is not a continuous, linear sequence of events, it is a linear sequence of ideas. The novel acts as a sort of medium of exploration through these topics - from treason to dancing, pure joy to discontent, and he even proposes a study on an emotion that he has found to be unnamed in any language besides Czech. It is clear he places great value on emotions and the inner-conflict, as well as the reconciliation of such, usually through unexpected means.

It is beautifully written (even in translation). I can't imagine someone reading this novel and coming away with bad feelings about it, even though it is surely not what most readers expect it to be.

If you like it, be sure to follow this book with The Unbearable Lightness of Being.

3-0 out of 5 stars Perspective: Pears or Hitler
Some writers you have to have read to take yourself seriously as a person. With that in mind I had 'Unbearable Lightness' on my list. But after having been recommended 'Laughter/Forgetting', opted for that instead.
I know this is a really clever novel full of symbolism, political/historical commentary and philosophical musings. I know that others rave about it. I know it hints to Nietzsche, Sartre and Kafka, but, I am sorry Mr Kundera, this lowly teacher in the North East of England just could not get on with it.
Selected sections from the book were valuable, for example, the one about mama and her priorities, her innate perspective which allowed her to understand that everyday activity, such as picking pears, is much more important than the politics of a nutty dictator. However, the outlook in general, the sense of alienation created, the rough treatment he gives Tamina, the poor presentation of women in general, it was all a bit much. I had to force myself to complete reading the book and felt it was quite a futile exercise(which explains why it took me ages), asking myself repeatedly 'Why am I reading this?'
Kundera, in this book, is coarse in his symbolism and his dire outlook is outright depressing. There must be more beautiful ways of expressing oneself about life than this. I know life can suck, be unfair and sad, but why write about it like this, not giving the reader a shred of hope?

5-0 out of 5 stars A Great Book
This book is great in the way that Laurence Sterne's _A Sentimental Journey_ is great: it is slender, full of delicacy and yet extremely erotic, immediate, and just about perfect.Indeed, I think it's stronger than the more famous _The Unbearable Lightness of Being_.

4-0 out of 5 stars always remember the first time
I had a modernist/post-modernist class in college and we read this and I enjoyed it very much. It was a bit of a break from some of the difficult novels we were reading. Kept the book for years and recently re-read and got through half of it. For me it is a book best experienced when you are young. All the impressions, ideas, romantic/sexual stuff seems to have the depth of someone around college age. No longer young I was bored, but four stars for my remembrance of college pursuits.

5-0 out of 5 stars Kundera's Lessons in Laughter and Forgetting.
"To laugh is to live profoundly" (p. 79).

Milan Kundera's Book of Laughter and Forgetting (Kniha smíchu a zapomnìní) was his first publication after he relocated to France in 1975. Published before Kundera's most famous novel, The Unbearable Lightness of Being, the non-traditional "novel" consists of several separate narratives united by common philosophical themes of life, sex, music, literature, and political opposition to the communism. The first section of the book ("Lost Letters") tells the story of Mirek, a former communist supporter, now determined to destroy the love letters he once sent to an ugly woman named Zdena. In the second section ("Mother"), Karel invites his mother to spend a week with him and his wife, Marketa. Karel and Marketa introduce her to their friend Eva as Marketa's cousin, when in fact she is their lover. The third section ("The Angels") tells the story of Kundera's attempt to write a horoscope for his employer (using a pseudonym) in Russian-occupied Czechoslovakia. His coworker (code named R.) is then questioned by the police about the writing, quickly turning office laughter into paranoia. Part four of the book ("Lost Letters") tells the story of a cafe waitress, Tamina, who wants a customer, Bibi, to retrieve her love letters and diaries from her mother-in-law in Prague to help her remember her deceased husband. Another customer, Hugo, is secretly in love with Tamina, and in an attempt to win her heart, offers to help her if Bibi cannot travel to Prague. Tamina eventually has sex with Hugo, but all the while her thoughts are on her deceased husband. The last section of the book ("Litost") tells the story of Kristyna's love for a philosophy and poetry student, who suffers from "litost," "a state of torment upon by the realization of one's inadequacy or misery." Kristyna fears having sex with him will make her pregnant and then put her life at risk. The student misinterprets this to mean Kristyna believes she will die from her immense love for him. The Book of Laughter and Forgetting reveals the work of a brilliant mind through Kundera's gifted style.

G. Merritt ... Read more

5. Testaments Betrayed: Essay in Nine Parts, An
by Milan Kundera
Paperback: 288 Pages (1996-09-11)
list price: US$13.95 -- used & new: US$14.95
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0060927518
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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Milan Kundera has established himself as one of the great novelists of our time with such books as The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Immortality and The Book of Laughter and Forgetting.In Testaments Betrayed, he proves himself a brilliant defender of the moral rights of the artist and the respect due to a work of art and its creator's wishes. The betrayal of both -- often by their most passionate proponents -- is the principal theme of this extraordinary work. Readers will be particularly intrigued by Kundera's impassioned attack on society's shifting moral judgments and persecutions of art and artists, from Mayakovsky to Rushdie.Amazon.com Review
Milan Kundera, one of the twentieth century's masters offiction and author of TheUnbearable Lightness of Being andImmortality, offersa brilliant and thought provoking essay, following in the tradition ofhis highly regarded The Artof the Novel.Testaments Betrayed is written like a novel:the same characters appear and reappear throughout the nine parts ofthe book, as do the principal themes that preoccupy the author.Kundera once again celebrates the art of thenovel, from its birth ina spirit of humor unique to European culture and sensibility -illustrated by some wonderful examples from the work of Rabelais andCervantes - through its flowering in successive centuries.Hecelebrates the particular wisdom the novel offers about humanexistence. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (7)

5-0 out of 5 stars Freedom
The fact that friends or opera bosses didn't respect the scores or the testaments of artists or had the power to impose their own vision on other's work, is for Milan Kundera an occasion to reflect on the history and rules of art and the novel, the freedom of the artist and ultimately, on freedom of speech.
His main examples are Franz Kafka (Max Brod didn't respect his testament which ordered to destroy all non published work) and Leos Janácek (whose opera score was `adapted' by an opera director).

Art has an autonomous status, its own laws. Art is not an imitation of reality. It is a unique expression of an individual. It is therefore logical that this individual possesses all rights over a work that emanates exclusively from him.
Moreover, one doesn't need biographical furor (Sainte-Beuve), to know the writer, painter or composer in order to understand his work. As Marcel Proust states: 'a book is the product of a self, other than the self we manifest in our habits.'
Milan Kundera detests also those critics who interpret a work of art with their own political, philosophical, religious convictions (see Adorno's scandalous critic of Stravinsky's music).

Essential for the novel are the facts that it is a realm where moral judgment is suspended, that there are no dogmas of psychological realism and that it breaks through the plausibility barrier with fantasy and humor (Rabelais, Cervantes) in order to apprehend better the real world.
It is evident that in these conditions art can be a dangerous weapon in the hands of political, religious, social, cultural, sexual, -in one word -, critical opponents of established powers. In the Rushdie case,`the guardians of the temple were powerless against a novel.'

I have a few remarks about this text.
Firstly, art is indeed an individual expression (of the artist's emotions), but true art is the craftsmanship to arouse emotions in the spectator, the listener, the reader.

Secondly, writers have normally a (few) friend(s) whom they ask to evaluate their work before submitting it to a publisher (in the case of Kafka, one of these persons was certainly Max Brod).

Thirdly, in `The Critic as Artist' Oscar Wilde expressed perfectly why art is so dangerous: `For when a work is finished it has as it were, an independent life of it own, and may deliver a message far other than that which was put into its lips.'
Therefore, it is absurd that an artist should fanatically impose his own `vision' on his work.

And lastly, Orwell's 1984 has not only a political dimension, but also a social, des(human)izing, Kafkaesque one (important facts happening or that happened in the world are only known by an all-powerful `secret team'). Its main theme is freedom to live, to know (`who controls the present, controls the past') and to speak. It is perhaps a bad novel, but an immortal good bad one.

This is a thought-provoking book and a must read for all lovers of art, and of literature in particular.

5-0 out of 5 stars Posthumous Betrayal of Artists and their Work?
Testaments Betrayed, 1995: Readers will no doubt be reminded of Art of the Novel, a more careful reading will reveal that the major theme of the book, the posthumous betrayal of artists and their work, was also dealt with to a large extent in Immortality. In Immortality, Kundera allowed for the posthumous encounter of Hemingway and Goethe. Where Goethe speaks candidly to Hemingway and mentions that "Haven't you realized, Ernest that the figures they talk about have nothing to do with us." Dealing mostly with Max Brod's betrayal of Kafka, Kundera is simply standing up for the rights of artists wishing that artists wishes and rights be honored. Kundera brings in his vast knowledge of music to the discourse of the novel stating in effect that each section carries a tempo which indicates a change in atmosphere. Effectively, Testaments Betrayed is a 9 part piece that covers a range of subjects from the history, the life, and the death of the novel, Hemingway, Kafka, Janacek, Stravinsky and Don Quixote. Not to reduce Testaments Betrayed to a single theme, the focus does seem to be the betrayal of Kafka by Brod. Kundera describes how Kafka suspends believability not to escape the world but to capture it. When Max Brod refuses to burn Kafka's papers, he effectively creates Kafkology. Kundera notices the parallel fate of Kafka and yet another of his heroes, Leos Janacek causing his provincialism and isolating him from mainstream music. Effectively, "a dead person is treated either as trash or as a symbol. Either way, it's the same disrespect to his vanished individuality." I line with what Foucualt and Barthe are talking about when talking about the 'Author Function'. I guess it is really ironic that betrayal comes from the best intentioned. Kundera no doubt is controversial where this is concerned as I can imagine the career Kafkologist will disagree with him and see Brod as a hero - the one who saved Kafka from obscurity. No matter what your opinion, Kundera is just as responsible for all the authorial function violations by brining it all up - more power to him.

5-0 out of 5 stars Read This Book
This is one of the most important books I've ever read.It is of interest, of course, to people involved with literature, music, translation, or who are interested in Kafka, Picasso, Hemmingway,Stravinsky, or others Kundera talks about.But I think the real importanceof this book applies to any reader.It has to do with Milan Kundera'sbeautiful illustrations as to how we as humans try to make our own heroeseveryone else's heroes, too, and in the process destroy many of the thingswe value and love about them.This is a vital idea in the modern world,where celebrity, biography, and voyeurism are always so present. Also, thestatements Kundera makes on the nature of friendship inspire deepreflection on the qualities of our relationships with those we hold dear.

3-0 out of 5 stars Rock'n'Roll Hottchie Koo
Mostly excellent, great stuff about Hemingway's "Hills like white elephants" and Kafka. But he makes some real DUMB remarks about sumthin he seems to know nuthin about (worse than the stuff he pans byothers), jazz and rock music: "...At jazz concerts people applaud. Toapplaud means:..." [try Kerouac for the relationship of jazz toaudience instead]. "An important FACT [my caps]: at rock concertspeople do not applaud [what?]. It would be almost sacrilege to applaud andthus bring to notice the critical distance between the person playing andthe person listening..." [what about Jim Morrison yelling "shutup" to squealing teeny-boppers- or Captain Beefheart stopping tocommand "cut it out, man, it's not even in 4/4" to a clappingdodo]. "...there are no dynamic contrasts, everything is fortissismo[yeah, right]... and resembles screaming... we're no longer in those littlenightspots [i am] ...we're in huge halls, in stadiums, pressed one againstthe next..." [sometimes, and i don't care for that myself, but that'snot the totality of "rock"]. His comments are as silly andphilistinic as some 'hipster' putting down all 'longhair' (classical) musicafter hearing Montovani.

5-0 out of 5 stars Milan Kundera throws out shouts to his favorite WORKS
Expanding upon the delightful discourse of "Art of the Novel","Testaments Betrayed" serves up a feast of appreciation for some of the greatest WORKS of the modern age.It explicitly makes connectionsbetween writers like Tolstoy and Kafka, and implicity links them with MilanKundera's own work.A deeply felt and deeply moving homage. ... Read more

6. Life Is Elsewhere
by Milan Kundera, Aaron Asher
Paperback: 432 Pages (2000-08-01)
list price: US$13.99 -- used & new: US$8.13
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Asin: 0060997028
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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The author intially intended to call this noel, The Lyrical Age. The lyrical age, according to Kundera, is youth, and this novel, above all, is an epic of adolescence; an ironic epic that tenderlyerodes scarosanct values: childhood, motherhood, revolution, and even poetry. Jaromil is in fact a poet. His mother made hima poet and accompanies him (figuratively) to his love bed and (literally) to his deathbed.A ridiculous and touching character, horrifying and totally innocent ("innocence with its bloody smile"!), Jaromil is at the same time a true poet.He's no creep, he's Rimbaud.Rimbaud entrapped by the communist revolution, entrapped in a somber farce. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (25)

5-0 out of 5 stars The Poet in Communist Czechoslovakia
I enjoyed "Life is Elsewhere" despite some tendencies to be tedious in its descriptions of the young poet, Jaromil.It is a rich book with lots of sub-texts, such as the qualities of surreal art and socialist realism art.The weird thing is the thing about the other young male poets.As the narrator openly states, following Jaromil is a good excuse to talk about other young poets such as France's Rimbaud, and the English poet Percy Shelley.Overall, the book has long stretches with sparse dialogue.Instead, it is a long examination of the mind of Jaromil, and his motives.This examination continues into the other characters, most of which have generic names.These include Papa, Grandpa, Grandma, Maman, the University Girl, the Redheaded Girl, the Janitor's Son and so on.This is odd in some cases, because the character Maman, for example, does have some emotional depth.The description of Jaromil's sexual struggles is essential to the book, though not in much detail.

It is ironic that the author, Milan Kundera. became somewhat of a dissident, since the political content is not very strong.Of course the book is against the Czech Communist regime, but not in an overt way.An interesting aspect is Jaromil's feeling at the time of the Communist takeover that he is part of a real revolution.This is also compared to the 1968 Paris Commune.The Communist police abuses are shown in a natural way as they hit the people around Jaromil. It is more about the horror of someone being accused of trying to defect or leave the country, and being sent to jail or perhaps shot.In this case, these accusations against the redheaded girl's brother are not even true.The story is made up by the redheaded girl, Jaromil's girlfriend, to avoid his accusations of being late and unfaithful.Jaromil's early death by sickness is also ironic, though connecting this with the deaths of the poets Pushkin and Lermontov is a stretch.After all, Jaromil is merely pushed into the cold.He decides to stay out there long enough to catch pneumonia.An interesting novel, and now in the post-Communist world, a bit of an anachronism.

2-0 out of 5 stars Mediocre
The more I read of Milan Kundera the more I am convinced that he is the John Ashbery of prose. Not in the similarities of the former's prose to the latter's poetry, although one could see some similarities, but rather that both men seemed to hit their heights years ago. Kundera with his two masterpieces, The Book Of Laughter And Forgetting in 1978 and The Unbearable Lightness Of Being in 1984, just as Ashbery's lone great book of poems, Self-Portrait In A Convex Mirror, was in 1974. That book was preceded by a decade or more of poems with promise, and then followed by three decades of stale rehashes. Just as Ashbery has been coasting I suspect that Kundera has also been in cruise control because what I've read of his, aside from his two classics have left me underwhelmed. Later works, like The Art Of The Novel (1986), Testaments Betrayed (1993), and Identity (1997) are pallid echoes of former glories, while earlier books like Laughable Loves (1969), and Life Is Elsewhere (1973) show flashes of the later brilliance, but also a lot of puerility and preachiness.

LIE, especially, telegraphs much of what will zenith in his later opuses, both in subject matter and execution. The book follows the life story of a poet, replete with all the requisite clichés of pain, suffering, and madness being akin to genius. This is no surprise since the book's title comes from an Arthur Rimbaud poem- Rimbaud being the poet of scatology and infantilism. The poet is named Jaromil, and the only snippets of verse we read from him are hardly anything to qualify him as a great poet. Regardless the book follows the surge to manhood of the very haughty and selfish Jaromil as he slowly asserts his independence from his overbearing mother (cliché alert), who is in a loveless marriage (cliché alert deux) to a man, the poet's father, who never wanted him (cliché alert trois). Of course, the reason these are clichés and not classical structures is because Kundera never lets us see any of the characters having individuated thoughts that are not things we've read a thousand times before in similar characters in similar situations....Although this book is a sort of Mesohippus on the evolutionary scale that would lead to what Kundera would become at his peak I am more concerned about his fall from grace, and the lack of any further imagination that has appeared in Kundera's published works, in the last two decades. Perhaps, this is why young artists- be they the fictive Jaromil, real Rimbaud, or young Kundera- cling so ferociously to their silly myths of tragic art and artists- because they know that the long slow slide to irrelevance awaits most of those who succeed or fail.

5-0 out of 5 stars A Poet at Odds with Totalitarianism.
Who hasn't felt that life is happening elsewhere?Milan Kundera is perhaps best known for The Unbearable Lightness of Being.Set in World War II Czechoslovakia, where people were imprisoned for their opinions, his 1973 novel, Life Is Elsewhere (Zivot je jinde), is a dark satire that tells the story of Jaromil, a sheltered young man who dreams of writing lyrical poetry in the tradition of Rimbaud, but who is put to the task of writing Communist propoganda instead. Raised by his mother, Jaromil's father was put to death in a gulag. He is capable of betraying even his girlfriend to the Party.It is important to understand that Kundera wrote this novel, which examines the role of the poet in a totalitarian society, after being expelled from the Communist Party (for the second time) in 1970, and before moving to France in 1975, where he has lived in exile ever since. The novel conveys the sense that, in a repressed society, "life is elsewhere." This is quintessential Kundera, full of good, powerful writing.

G. Merritt

3-0 out of 5 stars The "Anti-Lyrical Thesis" as a Novel of Ideas.
(Note that this review refers to an earlier translation of the novel)

This is a somewhat schematic work and not at all what it might appear to be to the casual reader.Superficially it is a fictional biography of a young man,an aspiring poet who is a contemporary of the author himself. The character is conceived (yes, we get a picture of his conception, or at least his mother's version of it, since he is the center of her existence, and everything about him is not only fascinating to her but must fall into the right place in the well-ordered design of his life which she creates), he is born, he lives a life of ambition and shame, he dies.His name is Jaromil ("lover of spring").His mother worships him and attempts to organize his life so that he will fulfill what she believes is his promise to become a great artist, even a "great socialist poet". He is both comforted by her presence and unconditional affection and irritated by her smothering attitudes, which enchain him to a perpetual childhood.He formulates strategies of psychological escape into what he imagines maturity must be.The strategies are not flattering (e.g.,a period of furious masturbation to compensate for a bout of psychologically-determined impotence with his first girlfriend; verbal and physical mistreatment of his second girlfriend, ending in a betrayal of her and her family to the security police; reporting to the authorities on the unacceptable attitudes of his teachers; constant "elevated" poeticizing of his own miserable existence; and so on).

Through his mother the world bows to Jaromil, but he is uncertain how widespread this homage will be.He is the only character in the book who has a name (excepting his idealized, improved self, a creation of his imagination known, with rather heavy symbolism, as Xavier, a heroic wraith who rescues maidens in distress and then abandons them as he jumps from dream to dream without ever awakening to the soiled reality which surrounds us).The rest of the nameless cast consists of:Maman ("Mommy"); the absentthen deceased father; the detested bourgeois aunt and uncle; the janitor's son, later a policeman; the dark-haired Jewish intellectual; the artist, a painter who is Maman's lover and Jaromil's childhood mentor; the admired and envied famous poet; the old poet with gray hair; the middle-aged man (who may be Kundera's fictional alter-ego); and, most important after Maman,the series of girls with whom he has idealized or realized romantic and erotic relations -- the studious girl with spectacles (spiritual kinship, erotic failure), the skinny, unattractive red-headed girl (easy consummation, possessive "love", disappointment, confabulation, betrayal), and the young woman who makes films (erotic, social, and intellectual failure of the most devastating type).

The story takes place in Prague, but there are only a few clues to this, and it might as well have taken elsewhere.The settings are generic - a home that is "nationalized" into an apartment, a university, a park, and of course a large "national security" building, whose employees, policemen, have taken over the confiscated suburban villa of a formerly wealthy bourgeois citizen and converted it into a retreat and recreation center, a place to which Jaromil and his fellow poets are invited to present their work and then engage in a very spurious "dialogue" with the guard dogs of the system.There is more information on the shabbiness of underwear (perhaps intended to limn the shabbiness of official ideals and the behavior of men on the make in the new socialist state "under construction") during the critical time depicted -- say, 1945 to 1950 -- than there is on other indicators of time and place.The nameless characters and the accompanying skeletal props are in fact a stage-setting in which Jaromil acts out a narcissistic play, bedeviled by fears he has that the audience - the rest of the world, people he encounters in school and on the streets - will have an unflattering opinion of him, will see him for what he is, a self-centered, immature youth. Poetry is the weapon he will use to rearrange matters to his satisfaction. And lyrical poetry - its basis in false-heroic notions of the self, its deficiencies with respect to portraying the grim realities of most lives, its ability to becloud the mind while it stirs the soul, and its easy co-optation for propaganda purposes by cynical rulers - is the author's target.

For the book is a thesis of anti-lyricism, a polemical position which is never explicitly stated.We are led to the anti-lyrical position by the pitiful conceits and the dreadful consequences oflyricism as they are seen in Jaromil's unlovely existence (and, for the historical period, in his typical biography).In fact, in Chapter 6, Verse 2, we are given a precise description of the misleading yet attractive and satisfying nature of lyricism, a mini-thesis presentation of the ideas that Jaromil's life embodies. Chapter 6 also illustrates Kundera's long-term fascination with older eighteenth-century predecessors of the "novel of ideas" (rather than the novel of characters or plot, which are perhaps better utilized, in Kundera's mind, as devices to get at the discussion of ideas - or as a way into the examination of changing human situations; this latter consideration shows the lasting influence of French existentialism on Kundera).In this chapter the author breaks into the third-person narrative of Jaromil's life in order to address the reader directly, to pose questions about relative perspectives, and to jump forward beyond his protagonist's death into the relationship of two other characters whose lives have been affected by Jaromil's impostures, before bringing us back to the "death of the poet" in the last chapter.It suggests the possibility of alternative novels that might have been written about other characters in the story - the janitor's son who became a policeman, the red-headed girl - but are now excluded by virtue of the author's having made his choice.

The author's intervention has become, in his words, an "observation tower" which allows him to adjust his focus on the main character (who is, in fact, "the embodiment of lyricism") and also point his telescope into the future and the past.Another set of meditations emerges in this chapter, founded in Jaromil's life but pointing to broader considerations:the poet, especially the Romantic poet,as a "Mama's boy" who reconfigures his life through desperate efforts at escape, both in life and through his art.Kundera uses this characterization to briefly illuminate this aspect of the lives and careers of the 1920s Czech poet Jiri Wolker, and the revered Romantics Shelley, Lermontov, and Rimbaud, would-be bad-boys fleeing the embraces of their mothers and grandmothers, each of whom might be seen as erecting a cult of the defiant self. So Chapter 6- which, in Kundera's favorite musical terms, is a sort of recapitulation of themes before proceeding to the coda of the last chapter - gives the reader a peculiar gloss on a particular phenomenon in the history of literature.

The translation by Peter Kussi seems acceptable and solid to me, a reader who does not speak Czech.Since the novel is schematic and occasionally thesis-like, there is no need for stylistic heroics or adventures, so I assume the translation reflects a down-to-earth expository prose approach of the original Czech text. Kundera is famously attentive to and fussy about the fine points of translation.I do not know if this particular translation meets his standards.Possibly not, since there was another translation by Aron Asher ten years after this one, and it has the Kundera "seal of approval" in a brief postscript.The Asher translation is a little more "flowing", even lyrical, which is surprising when Kundera's animus against lyricism is taken into account. However, in matters of narrative substance and historical allusions the two translations are interchangeable.

With regard to the contentious subject of "the lyrical age" of men (and mankind), Kundera devoted several passages of his "The Joke" to its consideration, and he has continued to consider it in his several volumes of literary essays.The briefest way to put it is that "the lyrical age" of young men and women is a period of intense adolescent narcissism and intellectual immaturity born of uncertainty about the self.This leads them into "all or nothing" attitudes which invariably have harmful consequencesfor themselves and others (in the Czech case for the period depicted, "lyricism" resulted in a cheerful alliance between poets and hangmen, as Kundera often reiterates).The biographical background of this long-lasting preoccupation relates, I believe, to what he perceives as the failings and poetic impostures of his own youth, most especially his long poem "The Last May", which depicts in stilted terms the last days of the Communist martyr and cult icon, Julius Fucik.How much of Jaromil is autobiographical in its details, that is, a fictionalized version of"early Kundera"can only be guessed at.Just as he killed off Jaromil as a character by having him choose to die in response to his disappointments (his fatal pneumonia stemming from a weak attempt at suicide) Kundera deliberately killed off his earlier self by ceasing to write poetry and turning to prose and to the novel as an "instrument of rational discourse" (my term for his approach).In the end I would call the book a successful thesis and only a qualified success as a novel (tastes and judgments about this will, I realize, vary greatly among its readers).Whatever my own hesitations on this point, I recommend the book as well worth reading to those interested in Kundera's career, in Czech literature, and in that part of the recent past in central Europe which is now entering its late phase of "living memory", which means that it might soon be forgotten altogether or significantly misrepresented.

4-0 out of 5 stars Milan Kundera, one of my favorite authors
I finally borrowed another of Milan Kundera's books to read from the university library. I didn't enjoy it as much as I did The Unbearable Lightness of Being. However there were still a lot of incisive and thoughtful passages.

What I like most about Milan Kundera is his marvelous skill in capturing the essence of his thoughts in words, and also the thoughts themselves which reveal a kindred soul in deep contemplation of human and life. Whenever I read his books, I feel a longing to write something as deeply revealing as his books.

Life is Elsewhere is about the life of a young poet named Jaromil. The viewpoint is erected at his demise, as the writer tells us. The poet and his mother's relationship are one of the main subjects in this book. The writer says he meant to name the book The Lyric Age but changed the title at the last moment because the publishers worried that no one would buy a book with such an abstract title.

Many critics see this book as a satire of literature, of literary talent, and of life. However, as I read the book, I didn't perceive it as a satire. I felt it to be honest, sometimes brutally so, but still with sympathy and self-pity wrapped around it. Every aspiring artist is bound to go through some of what Jaromil went through.

It especially makes one wonder how literary genius can be defined or if it even can be defined. The writer himself writes in the preface that Jaromil is not a bad poet. I kept that in mind as I read the book. Jaromil is in fact a very sensitive though naive and immature poet. Nobody can be the absolute judge of literary talent. ... Read more

7. Laughable Loves
by Milan Kundera
Paperback: 304 Pages (1999-05)
list price: US$14.00 -- used & new: US$4.82
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0060997036
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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Milan Kundera is a master of graceful illusion and illuminating surprise. In one of these stories a young man and his girlfriend pretend that she is a stranger he picked up on the road--only to become strangers to each other in reality as their game proceeds. In another a teacher fakes piety in order to seduce a devout girl, then jilts her and yearns for God. In yet another girls wait in bars, on beaches, and on station platforms for the same lover, a middle-aged Don Juan who has gone home to his wife. Games, fantasies, and schemes abound in all the stories while different characters react in varying ways to the sudden release of erotic impulses. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (28)

3-0 out of 5 stars Well written, interesting, but not his best.
I read Laughable Loves after breezing through, The Unbearable Lightness of Being, in a weekend. Laughable Loves, was well written and interesting, but it didn't hold my attention like The Unbearable Lightness of Being did. Laughable Loves, is a collection of short stories that explore love and relationships from the male perspective. While Kundera's thoughts and philosophies are interesting there isn't as much substances here as in his other works. The book was very readable and perhaps would be excellent for a commuter or someone with not a lot of time to read. The short stories for the most part were interesting enough, but they didn't engage you as much as his other works have. Towards the end I found myself, just reading this to get through rather than for enjoyment. Over all it was well written and interseting enough, I just didn't enjoy it as much as some of his other works.

5-0 out of 5 stars Deceptively Light
This is a collection of seven very early stories by Milan Kundera. I believe they were mostly written during the 60's and are set in the Czechoslovakia of that time.

He has an innovative but very readable style - simple, precise, light. These stories bring out philosophical mysteries while being page turning reads at the same time. They sort of remind me of fables, but without any obvious moral lessons. Not exactly anyway. They will, however, give you plenty to think about on the nature of Identity, Desire, Ego, etc.

For me, this is Kundera at his best or very near. I really liked Unbearable Lightness of Being and The Book of Laughter and Forgetting and this book has the same virtues as those. I think some of his later works, like Immortalitiy, tended towards self indulgence, but the early and middle stuff is some of the most inventive, engaging work of the 20th century.

5-0 out of 5 stars Finding Humor in the Erotic Impulse.
"When it comes to commerce, the erotic is a touchy issue, because while everyone may covet the erotic life, everyone also hates it as the source of their troubles, their frustrations, their yearnings, their complexes, their sufferings" Milan Kundera, Identity(p. 51).

With his European sensibility, Milan Kundera appreciates the humorous nature of the libido. Best known for The Unbearable Lightness of Being: A Novel, Kundera's 1969 collection of seven short stories, Laughable Loves (Smìsné lásky), reveals the humor in the erotic impulse that drives romantic relationships. In one story, a young professor who plays mind-games with people he considers inferior loses his lover only after realizing he loves her. In another, "The Hitchhiking Game," a couple plays a game intended to excite them, but which causes them to lose interest in one another. In "Let the Old Dead make way for The Young Dead," a widow visits her husband's grave, only to discover that it has been removed and replaced with another grave of a man who had died "more recently." This act of vulgarity prompts her to visit a former lover. Two stories follow the sexual exploits of a Don Juan, Dr. Havel. In one he rejects a nurse, and in the other set ten years later, while middle-aged and losing confidence in himself, his young, beautiful wife reminds him that he is still attractive. Another story examines the flirtations of two middle-age men. One is happily married, and the other is more interested in books than women. In "Eduard and God," the title character places his teaching job in jeopardy by accompanying his religious girlfriend to church. After jilting her, Eduard yearns for God. These intelligent love stories are quintessential Kundera.

G. Merritt

5-0 out of 5 stars Love Advice from a Man of the World
Milan Kundera is, perhaps, what Woody Allen probably wishes he were: a non-neurotic European gentleman; a cool customer who knows a few things about love, and doesn't mind sharing them. And he has lived a professional life of art under a repressive Soviet bloc regime, to boot.

Laughable Loves is my first stab at Kundera, and what a find! Here is a thoroughly modern (though several decades old) collection of sketches of romance young and old, foibles and conceits timeless and ubiquitous, and comedy blatant and tongue-in-cheek. The book starts out modestly with young couple whose blithe role-playing takes them to darker places in their hearts and minds than they'd ever imagined. Kundera then gives us a pompous professor/art critic who goes to great lengths to avoid a man who solicits his critique while halfheartedly protecting his young mistress; a bitter man who seeks to recapture a love he once let get away; a doctor, ex-Don Juan, who is full of himself and, ultimately, full of IT; and, among others, an atheist teacher who flirts with religion to get close to a girl, and flirts with the principal to save his career, with unexpected results.

The stories are metaphysical puzzles (especially Dr. Havel) and teasing meditations on love, lust, and life from a lover-philosopher. Kundera makes no apologies and explores amoral terrain with authority--and wit. What a taut, satisfying collection of short stories. The question is not whom to read next, but what to read...

5-0 out of 5 stars Honesty, cynicism and melancholy shrouded in undescribable tenderness
I just came across this collection of short stories, and as a devoted Kundera fan, I quickly devoured it amidst Christmas preparations, letter writings and other more dreary readings. And what a delight! This is early Bohemian Kundera, written while he still lived in then Czechoslovakia, and it is quite evident that he has not yet matured into the thoroughly seasoned writer that produced masterpieces such as "Life is Elsewhere", "The Unbearable Lightness of Being" and "Immortality". However, this is unmistakenly literary genius in the making, and the mood throughout is simply captivating.

The themes all deal with aspects of human sexuality - mostly from a Man's view. The stories have a raw sense of humanity to them - sometimes it can be uncomfortable reading; however, it has an undeniably tender undercurrent. Even when a character behaves despicably, I remained sympathtic with the human behind the actions. It just feels irresistably honest, and it is quite easy to get seduced by such well-portrayed human complexities.

Among my favorite stories were "The Old Dead Must Make Room for the New Dead", which portrays the dilemma of whether to preserve a diffuse, but beautiful sensual memory or replace it with a graphic, but uglier version that will ultimately erase the former. "Edward and God" is another gem that deals with sexual longing and the fickleness of Religion (Atheism is cleverly presented just as irrational in its dogmatisms as Christianity).
Finally "The Hitchhiking Game" is a classic portrayal of how easily perceptions can be irreversibly altered.

I highly recommend this short-story collection; however, if you are reading Milan Kundera for the first time, I am tempted to recommened one of his more famous works... ... Read more

8. Slowness: A Novel
by Milan Kundera
Paperback: 176 Pages (1997-05-21)
list price: US$12.99 -- used & new: US$3.36
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Asin: 0060928417
Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars
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Two tales of seduction, separated by more than two hundred years, interweave and oscillate between the sublime and the comic in this, Milan Kundera's lightest novel. In the 18th century, the marvelous Madame de T. summons a young nobleman to her chamber and gives him an unforgettable lesson in the art of seduction and the pleasures of love. In the same chat at the end of the 20th century, a hapless intellectual experiences a rather less successful night. Distracted by his desire to be the center of attention at a convention of entomologists, Vincent misses the opportunity to be with a beautiful stranger and suffers the ridicule of his peers.

A "morning-after" encounter between the two men brings the novel to a poignant close and provides a unique insight into the different mind-sets of the two centuries. As Vincent prepares to speed off on his motorcycle, he has already obliterated the memory of his humiliation. The young nobleman, on the other hand, relives the delicious pleasures of the night as he lies back on the cushions of his carriage.

Ruminating on how the pleasures of slowness have disappeared in today's fast-paced, future-shocked world, Kundera explores the secret bond between slowness and memory and the connection between our era's desire to forget and the way we have given ourselves over to the demon of speed. As provocative as it is entertaining, Slowness is Kundera in top form.Amazon.com Review
After the gravity of TheUnbearable Lightness of Being and Immortality,Slowness comes as a surprise: it is certainly Kundera'slightest novel, a divertimento, with, as the author himselfsays, "not a single serious word in it."

Disconcerted and enchanted, the reader follows the narrator through amidsummer's night in which two tales of seduction, sperated by morethan two-hundred years, interweave and oscillate between the sublimeand the comic, finally culminating in poignant cross-century encountersure to linger in the reader's mind

Despite Kundera's disclaimer about the novel's seriousness,Slowness resonates with a profound meditation on contemporarylife, the secret bond between slowness and memory, the connectionbetween our era's desire to forget and the way we have given ourselvesover to the demon of speed. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (42)

5-0 out of 5 stars Kundera is a solid intellectual
If you are amused by thought and thinking then the works of Milan Kundera are for you. All the stuff that is flowing through your mind in observing the world turns up on the pages of his novels. I especially enjoyed "Slowness" in its discussion of how people with quiet voices have trouble fitting into social situations with all those loud voices dominating. Yes, it hits close to home.

5-0 out of 5 stars Kundera at his most poignant
This is by far and away my favorite book of all time.Kundera at his finest!!!Read.

5-0 out of 5 stars Kundera's fastest read
In almost miraculously few words, the author illustrates both the driving force and the tragedy of our era - speed - using character study, social analysis, philosophy, and poetry, to make fully a case that would have fallen apart (by its nature) if rendered less than perfectly. This novel may be this author's most underrated, most understated, and may turn out to be his largest and most lasting. With sparkling clear prose and wonderful intelligence, this short book is worth rereading.

4-0 out of 5 stars The Bookschlepper Recommends
Slowness: a Novel by Milan Kundera: This is a novel with an essay hidden inside, an essay on the speed of modern life and romance. The narrator is joined by an 18th century Chevalier and Vincent, a woebegone hanger-on of the smart-set and a passel of entomologists. An intricate weaving of old and new; acerbic observations; interesting conclusion. The second reading is better.
Quotes: "The man hunched over his motorcycle can focus only on the present instant of his flight; he is caught in a fragment of time cut off from both the past and the future; he is wrenched from the continuity of time; he is outside time; in other words, he is in a state of ecstasy; in that state he is unaware of his age, his wife, his children, his worries, and so he has no fear. Because the source of fear is in the future; and a person freed of the future ha nothing to fear. Speed is the form of ecstasy the technological revolution has bestowed on man."
"Pleasure is the absence of suffering. Suffering, then, is the fundamental notion of hedonism: one is happy to the degree that one can avoid suffering, and since pleasures often bring more unhappiness than happiness, Epicurus advises only such pleasures as are prudent and modest."
"There was one kind of fame before the invention of photography, and another kind thereafter. The Czech king Wenceslaus, in the fourteenth century, liked to visit the Prague inns and chat incognito with the common folk. He had power, fame, liberty. Prince Charles of England has no power, no freedom, but enormous fame."
"The way contemporary history is told is like a huge concert where they present all of Beethoven's one hundred thirty-eight opuses one after the other, but actually play just the first eight bars of each. If the same concert were given again in ten years, only the first note of each piece would be played, thus one hundred thirty-eight notes for the whole concert, presented as one continuous melody. And in twenty years, the whole of Beethoven's music would be summed up in a single very long buzzing tone, like the endless sound he heard on the first day of his deafness."

1-0 out of 5 stars Yawn
here comes a time when every writer should know when to hang it up, for they have run out of fresh ideas and are merely left aping their former selves, and better works. That time, it seems, came for Milan Kundera with 1995's Slowness. It is a terrible little novel, or novella, for it is a small-sized book of 156 pages, with large font.

Now, Kundera first made a splash in the English speaking world in the late 1970s and early 1980s with two majestically great books- The Book Of Laughter And Forgetting and The Unbearable Lightness Of Being. In his works prior to those two touchstones his work was yet to be fully formed, and since then his work has been a mere shadow of its earlier metafictional glory.

The novel opens with the author and his wife Vera driving from Paris to a country chateau for a night's getaway. A hell-mell motorcyclist follows them and Vera remarks that people lose their fear when they get behind the wheel. It is an offhand remark, akin to the one that prompted the novel Kundera wrote just before this, Immortality, but it propels the rest of the book. This book, as his others, will be part novel, part memoir, and part philosophic discourse. Its subject will be a lyrical meditation on speed and time, technology and the mortal, memory and forgetting. Quoth the master: `The man hunched over his motorcycle can focus only on the present instant of his flight; he is caught in a fragment of time cut off from both the past and the future; he is wrenched from the continuity of time...in other words, he is in a state of ecstasy; in that state he is unaware of his age, his wife, his children, his worries, and so he has no fear, because the source of fear is in the future, and a person freed of the future has nothing to fear.' From this extended observation Kundera rues the loss of the art of slowness, as well its appreciation.

Of course, being Kundera, there is another track that the book operates on. Kundera claims to be currently reading a novella as he relates his own tale. Whether this is a real or made up work I don't know, nor do I care, for its veracity is irrelevant to the success or failure of Kundera's work. It is called Point de Lendemain, or No Tomorrow. It was written by an 18th Century debauchee by the name of Vivant Denon, really a pseudonym used by its author to retain anonymity. In the novella a young chevalier travels to the same chateau Mr. and Mrs. Kundera are at, to meet his true love, the married Madame de T, and perform sexual rituals known to only a select few....Unfortunately, along with being formulaic, Slowness is dull, preachy, pedantic, screedish, smug, and banal- all at once. It is a slim yet bloated discourse on sex, existentialism, anal fetishism, and manners. In his defense, Kundera at least showed some honesty in classifying the book as a mere divertimento- meaning he never intended to say anything of depth in it: on art, nor anything else. That is his right, of course, but couldn't he have warned his devoted readers, those with a true desire to use art to explore the world? Instead, he showed an utter contempt for his audience, in foisting this piece of crap into the world, and to me, such an act is the final curtain on a once glorious career. ... Read more

9. The Curtain: An Essay in Seven Parts
by Milan Kundera
Paperback: 176 Pages (2008-01-01)
list price: US$13.95 -- used & new: US$4.50
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Asin: 0060841958
Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars
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In this thought-provoking, endlessly enlightening, and entertaining essay on the art of the novel, renowned author Milan Kundera suggests that "the curtain" represents a ready-made perception of the world that each of us has—a pre-interpreted world. The job of the novelist, he argues, is to rip through the curtain and reveal what it hides. Here an incomparable literary artist cleverly sketches out his personal view of the history and value of the novel in Western civilization. In doing so, he celebrates a prose form that possesses the unique ability to transcend national and language boundaries in order to reveal some previously unknown aspect of human existence.

... Read more

Customer Reviews (14)

5-0 out of 5 stars Tear the curtain!
Schopenhauer made the astute observation that the essence of true art is the fact that it conveys an unexpected and original insight into the real nature of our world.
Building on that, Hermann Broch considered the novel (literature) as an optical instrument for the reader so that he can discern what he might never have seen in himself without that specific book. He even went so far as to claim that a novel, which fails to reveal some hitherto unknown bit of existence, is immoral.

This is also Milan Kundera's viewpoint: `For all we can do in the face of the ineluctable defeat called life is to try to understand it; that is the raison d'être of the novel.'
`A novel is purposely a-philosophic, even anti-philosophic, fiercely independent of any system of preconceived ideas, it questions, it marvels, it doesn't judge, nor proclaims truths.'
`Its characters do not need to be admired for their virtues. They need to be understood.'
And, `novelists should past the frontier of the plausible.'

Milan Kundera sketches marvelously the history of the novel: from actions (Cervantes), over psychology (Dostoyevsky, Flaubert) to situations (Kafka, Joyce).
He makes also penetrating comments on his favorite writers (Fielding, Broch, Kafka, Flaubert, Musil, Rabelais, Gombrowicz, Cervantes, Dostoevsky, Sterne) and shows their unique place and high originality in the continuing evolution of the art of the novel.

This book is a must read for all lovers of world literature.

5-0 out of 5 stars Excellent reading
Milan Kundera gives us a new insite on what makes a novel a different type of literature. He is widely read, witty and light. At the same time his opinions are thought provoking and the breadth and appropriateness of his quotations a joy to read. I must say that I read the book in one rainy weekend sitting and that it has been a long time since I have enjoyed so much following an author's thought process.

5-0 out of 5 stars The Best of Kundera's Criticism
The Curtain is Kundera's third work of literary criticism/theory and it is, in my view, the best.It is more focused than Art of the Novel and less bitter than Testaments Betrayed.Here Kundera presents extremely readable and pointed analyses of several works and, more importantly, provides a larger argument about the role of the novel in the world and its moral capabilities. He provides insights into several well known writers such as Cervantes and Kafka, but he has also alerted me to many writers with whom I was previously unfamiliar.It is one of those books that, after you finish, will make you want to go and read a dozen other books.And I think that is a good thing.

5-0 out of 5 stars An Aesthetic Literary Critic
In The Curtain, which in fact is a series of separate pieces, each of which are further divided into component pieces, Kundera presents the novel and novelists in a tableau of history, politics, and culture. His manner is discursive. Among his shaggy dog elements: the novel as psychological exploration of character or as existential analysis; phenomenological observations on the workings of memory; Rabelais, Cervantes, and Hermann Broch (The Sleepwalkers) as stand-alone contributors to the nonlinear history of the novel, along with Sterne, Flaubert, Kafka, Carlos Fuentes, and more; the influence of national culture on art (the difference between French "vulgarity" and Central European "kitsch"); the innards of a novel's process, and the workings of prosai-comi-epic imagination ...

It occurred to me, as I began to scribble notes on this or that observation, put so succinctly and well, that I hadn't felt the need to do that in a while, since reading E.M. Cioran's observations on life, in fact, and before that the aesthetic takes on visual art of Andre Malraux in Anti-Memoirs) and the comments on writing by Sartre in Why I Write. You can reread such books, as I expect I'll reread this one as well.I Think, Therefore Who Am I?

5-0 out of 5 stars The genius behind 'The Curtain.'
It is unfortunate many readers of serious fiction will never read this book. Milan Kundera (1929) is a Czech-born writer who writes mostly in French these days. He is best known for his novel, The Unbearable Lightness of Being: A Novel (Perennial Classics) (1984), a profound exploration of the fragile nature of the life of an individual. Following The Art of the Novel (1985) and Testaments Betrayed (1992), his seven-part essay, The Curtain, is part three in a trilogy of essays on the European novel. Translated by Linda Asher, it was originally published as "Le Rideau," in French in April 2005 by Gallimard. It should be considered required reading for anyone interested in knowing what the novel is all about.

Kundera believes that reading novels, from Cervantes, Dostoyevsky, and Tolstoy, to Kafka, Garcia Marquez, and Rushdie, offers a way of thinking that is essential to understanding human nature and our own lives. Reading allows us to tear down "the curtain" of pre-interpreted assumptions ingrained in our psyche, enabling us to have an unobstructed vision of the world we inhabit: "A magic curtain, woven of legends, hung before the world. Cervantes sent Don Quixote journeying and tore through the curtain. The world opened before the knight errant in all the comical nakedness of its prose" (p.92). For Kundera, "a novel that fails to reveal some unknown bit of existence is immoral" (p.61); its objective should be to reach into "the soul of things'" and the '"enigmas of existence." Understanding human life--that is "the raison d'etre of the art of the novel" (p.10). Anything less than that is mere "babble."

Although Kundera's subject is erudite, his writing is easy to follow--like sitting in a Paris cafe with a 78-year-old scholar, discussing why reading serious European literature matters.

G. Merritt ... Read more

10. The Unbearable Lightness of Being: A Novel
by Milan Kundera
Paperback: 320 Pages (2009-11-01)
list price: US$16.99 -- used & new: US$9.55
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Asin: 0061148520
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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A young woman is in love with a successful surgeon, a man torn between his love for her and his incorrigible womanizing. His mistress, a free-spirited artist, lives her life as a series of betrayals—while her other lover, earnest, faithful, and good, stands to lose everything because of his noble qualities. In a world where lives are shaped by irrevocable choices and fortuitous events, and everything occurs but once, existence seems to lose its substance, its weight. Hence we feel "the unbearable lightness of being."

A major achievement from one of the world's truly great writers, Milan Kundera's magnificent novel of passion and politics, infidelity and ideas, encompasses the extremes of comedy and tragedy, illuminating all aspects of human existence.

... Read more

Customer Reviews (273)

2-0 out of 5 stars Unbearable, yes
I looked forward to this novel because I enjoyed Kundera's "Life Is Elsewhere", "Laughable Loves", and "Farewell Party". These earlier works all show an ironic sense and a wry touch.So I was disappointed to find an almost didactic tone in this novel.And worse, the "lesson" is miserable:we don't know what we want, and we get it.Kundera attempts to blend intellectual digressions with characters that personify his ideas of love.I hate to give away plots but it is safe to say that the "hero", Tomas, is a disgusting example of manhood.That the naive Tereza puts up with a lifetime of his endless philandering stupefies the reader.There is nothing light or witty or insightful here:just characters without a clue.In the other relationship Kundera uses to portray his theories, the woman rejects her lover because he is too sincere and devoted.She dumps him and so becomes "unbearably light".Yikes.The characters in the 3 works cited above were not fully developed either, but the tone and style was so enjoyable that it just carried the reader along.With ULOB, it drags because the characters are heavy and witless.

3-0 out of 5 stars The unbearabe lightness of being
Well written, but terribly depressing. A book about self-absorbed people searching to desperately fill the emptiness in their lives, without regard for who they hurt. I finished it, but frankly couldn't wait for it to be over. Good political description of what was going on in Prague in the late 1960's. A pretty hopeless situation.

5-0 out of 5 stars Masterpiece
Amazing mix of philosphy, extraordinary narrative and a little bit of history. The characters are so well delineated...each represents a very different way of viewing life without falling on stereotypes. This is a masterpiece everyone should read.

4-0 out of 5 stars Philosophy
Tomas is satisfied with his life.He is a surgeon and wildly successful with women; he has a great deal of love affairs and is happy that his life is free enough to allow him not to make connections or settle down.Then, through a series of coincidences, Tereza enters his life, beats him down with her absolutely unshakable love, and marries him.

Tereza sees Tomas as her security, and is deeply hurt by his continued love affairs, even though he explains to her that love and sex are entirely different.She hates his philandering but can't bear to leave him.

One of Tomas' steady lovers, Sabina, also has another lover on the side.She and Franz couldn't be more opposite, and they live in a near-constant state of misunderstanding.

The world around the characters is unsteady as well, and these four need not only navigate the difficulties of love but also the difficulties of living under oppressive and militant regimes.

This novel was fascinating, not necessarily because of the characters, but because of the philosophy that was explored through their lives.Their stories were simply a backdrop, setting of a scene in order to expound on a philosophical idea, from the idea of love, to the appreciation of music, to various religious theories.I didn't care much what happened to any of the main characters, but I was deeply interested in what the author had to share about his own philosophy through the vehicle of this story.

5-0 out of 5 stars An interruption of the ordinary.
I first read this book when I was 21 sitting in hillside cafe's in Prague.Since then (I'm now 31), I've bought maybe 10 copies and have given 9 of them away, sometimes to people I'd just met.I read it about once a year, and, rather than decaying into repetition, it seems to reveal more depth, evoke deeper experiences, and challenge my ordinary (thrown) understanding of the world and myself.The one constant I find is that every time I read this book, I am thrust into a state of sweet melancholy that sometimes lasts for days.I know not how to describe the sensation that is evoked, other than to say it is incredibly tender, compassionate, nostalgic, and heart-wrenching.There is nothing else I have ever been a part of or read or saw that has produced a similar effect.This book, I assert, when read with the proper context, is an opportunity for one to become other than they are.There is nothing more amazing than seeing what appears to be a fixed, immutable object or condition, naked of its past, presented starkly with fresh life.This book finds a way to interrupt the ordinary and expected over and over again. ... Read more

11. Insoportable levedad del ser, La (Spanish Edition)
by MilanKundera
Paperback: 336 Pages (2008-01)
list price: US$13.95 -- used & new: US$8.47
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 8483835126
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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Esta es una extraordinaria historia de amor, o sea de celos, de sexo, de traiciones, de muerte y tambien de las debilidades y paradojas de la vida cotidiana de dos parejas cuyos destinos se entrelazan irremediablemente. Guiado por la asombrosa capacidad de Milan Kundera de contar con cristalina claridad, el lector penetra fascinado en la trama compleja de actos y pensamientos que el autor va tejiendo con diabolica sabiduria en torno a sus personajes. Y el lector no puede sino terminar siendo el mismo personaje, cuando no todos a la vez. Y es que esta novela va dirigida al corazon, pero tambien a la cabeza del lector. En efecto, los celos de Teresa por Tomas, el terco amor de este por ella opuesto a su irreflenable deseo de otras mujeres, el idealismo lirico y cursi de Franz, amante de Sabina, y la necesidad de esta, amante tambien de Tomas, de perseguir incansable, una libertad que tan solo la conduce a la insoportable levedad del ser, se convierten de simple anecdota en reflexion sobre problemas filosoficos que, afectan a cada uno directamente, cada dia. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (8)

5-0 out of 5 stars hats off
meaningful, it's amazing how Kundera creates such strong images. while reading this one, you'll have the best movie (inside your head)

5-0 out of 5 stars Empathy
I agree with the latter review.This book requires a unique perception, a deeper understanding of the of human folly--oflove.I'm sure Kundera has a cult following--people who are very spiritual & intellectual.The book's about all the abstract things that make life so mysterious.You cannot read this book and simply understand the characters. You must have lived the characters.You must have an affinity with the characters.This book is about an advanced perception of life.It's cannot be put into words; either you understand ... or you don't.There is no in between.

2-0 out of 5 stars maybe I didn't get it
Found it hard to get into, and still felt that way more than halfway through. Didn't care a lot about the characters; disliked the author's way of jumping back and forth through time (though I don't mind the ways some authors do so). Was more touched by the dog's death than anything else!

4-0 out of 5 stars extrana historia
no entendi bien esta novela ni los conceptos filosoficos que tanto decian los comentarios. parece hecha de artificios de tiempo roto y enredado, habla de tomas, de tereza y de su vida amorosa, pero aun he quedadopreguntandome que me habra querido decir el autor en todo esto. parece asimple vista una historia comun.... LUIS MENDEZ

4-0 out of 5 stars eterraza@tvazteca.com.mx
Si este gran libro no hubiera llegado a mis manos, yo no hubiera conocido a Mefisto, y sin Mefisto mi vida no sería la misma, lean este muy buen tabique y chequen el dato Mefisto, (me acuerdo de mi hermano) ... Read more

12. Immortality (Perennial Classics)
by Milan Kundera
Paperback: 352 Pages (1999-11-01)
list price: US$14.99 -- used & new: US$6.85
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0060932384
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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Milan Kundera's sixth novel springs from a casual gesture of a woman to her swimming instructor, a gesture that creates a character in the mind of a writer named Kundera. Like Flaubert's Emma or Tolstoy's Anna, Kundera's Agnes becomes an object of fascination, of indefinable longing. From that character springs a novel, a gesture of the imagination that both embodies and articulates Milan Kundera's supreme mastery of the novel and its purpose; to explore thoroughly the great, themes of existence.

... Read more

Customer Reviews (72)

5-0 out of 5 stars Awesome and witty -- wonderfully entertaining and insightful
Milan Kundera is the best novelist I have ever read.His power lies in his great intellect, keen and unerring observations of human behaviors, and his immaculate control of language to yield the exact effect he desires.Even though I cannot read his works in the original Czech or French, the English translations are as, if not more, satisfying than the greatest of original English works."Immortality" proves to be even better than the already awe-inspiring "The Book of Laughter and Forgetting."The point really is not the plot, but how it's plotted.It's the originality of working his voice into the surface of the text without subverting the comfortable author-reader decorum.It's the exploration of the nature (or un-nature?) of relationships, the impossibity of understanding between "different" kinds of people, and the longing for those with whom such understanding is possible.Agnes for her father.Her father for a woman that he might have met too late in life.Milan Kundera for an ideal reader.

The other part of the plot is centered on the anecdotal relation between Goethe and Bettina.It's a long discussion of how the title of the book, immortality, figures in in a relationship such as that between Goethe and Bettina.The story itself is fascinating enough that I never raised a question as to why the two plots are set side by side.I might come upon some insight later on, but one thing is pretty clear, Bettina is what Agnes is not.Even though the book seems to caste Agnes' sister Laura as Agnes' opposite, Bettina is the real counterpart to Agnes.One yearns for immortality in the public memory, the other for a quiet, private understanding.And from the sympathy he bestows upon Agnes, it is quite obvious that Kundera is partial to Agnes' kind yearning.But he also understands Bettina perfectly well.After all, he shares the same yearning for immortality.

4-0 out of 5 stars A Cerebral Expedition
Which idiot came up with the idea that a novel has to have a straightforward plot? It must have been an imagologist or homo-hystericus!

Kundera's Immortality can be thought of as a reintroduction to art, to literature for the sake of perceptive social observances and the poetic and profound articulation thereof. The novel is sophisticated and nowhere close to ordinary.

As we journey with the author from one plot to another, there's an urge to anticipate what the next chapter has for us. Are we meeting someone new, playing with the characters we've been acquainted with in previous chapters, witnessing a conversation between the great writers or congenially philosophizing about certain ideas? The trip he takes us on is unique and we never know what's coming next.

Most people have been socialized to seek a storyline, to put the puzzle together, and although some of the pieces in the novel ingeniously tie in to each other, that is not the point. There are no conclusions to be reached. We begin to unlearn the pursuit of a conceivable ending or a recognizable storyline and learn to process the next chapter as is. It's great.

This was my first Kundera novel. His writing is a recipe of logic, talent and aptitude fused with creativity and finesse.

4-0 out of 5 stars A delight for writers, lovers of writing, and introspective persons
Kundera's books are the only kind of book I can re-read without losing the enjoyment of the first time. Why is it so? I think it's because they are built with such a good style that the story becomes almost an accessory. Even if I already know how it will unfold it doesn't matter, because the pleasure is all in following the dance of the words. Immortality, more than any other of his fictional works, offers the reader a unique chance to observe the creation of such a dance. It's almost a documentary on the birth of a good novel.

A banal event, taking place in the plane of "real life", induces the author to imagine a character and to play with her before our eyes. When he has finished with his considerations, we found that that character has been fleshed out into a woman around which a story can not avoid to unfold.

All throughout the book Kundera amuses himself and us showing how everything, an idle meditation, a moral dilemma, the fantasies induced by listening to the radio in a state of drowsiness, can be turned in profitable material for storytelling. And he doesn't stop to the creation of a story: he enjoys manipulating existing stories, creating new meanings for them so that they become another source of mutual fertilization for his meditations (the book chapters alternate between the main tale, and the dissection of the relationship between Goethe and Bettina Von Arnim, with curious interludes such as conversations in heaven between Goethe and Hemingway).

Of course one can not avoid suspecting that even the description of his working mechanisms are built to be a story in its own right, thus adding still another level of depth.

And what about the magical, more-than-rational aspect of storytelling ? one could ask. What about the thing that makes it an art rather than a mere ability to learn in a creative writing class? Be assured that it is present, and that this book is far away from being a bidimensional exhibition of technical skill. You never stop being fascinated by the story and the characters, even on the occasions when you don't agree with Kundera's hypotheses, or when they, in a completely natural way and almost as a revenge, start invading that "real life" plane from which they were conceived.

In this respect one could say that "Immortality" is the practical counterpart to "The Art of the Novel" by the same author, and further that it is a beautiful monument to Writing.

This is such a good read that I can't avoid to suggest it to anyone, but there is a kind of person in particular for which this is the ideal book: the introspective. I say this both because of the nature of the book (which makes it perfect for someone who likes to delve deep in things and find hidden gems, and maybe less than perfect for someone who likes to be overloaded with glamorous situations and fast paced action) and for the main character in this book, whose problems (unspeakable because they would be considered not a big deal and just laughed at or maybe even not understood), whose way of dealing with a life that becomes more and more noisy and ugly will strike a chord in the heart of people who tend to introversion.

5-0 out of 5 stars Twisted, thought provoking and fun!
I came upon this book off of a list of existentialist novels and I can say, I was rather pleased with this book. First off, I'm not much of a read for fun general fiction reader, (the fiction I read is, Camus, Dostoevsky, and the like).I mostly read philosophy, essays and spiritually related works, but, when I read this, my interest in fiction was once again piqued! I loved this book! The book is written in a style that makes you think along with posing some very thought provoking questions about life.

If you like a book to have a nice even flow, that takes you away and has an ending that you can accept and walk away feeling happy about, this isn't the book for you. If however, you like to be challenged, to think while you read along with being entertained, get it and have fun!This was a book that I couldn't put down! I have read a few other Kindara works, and I like this one the best!

5-0 out of 5 stars My favorite Kundera creation
Kundera has a way of being funny, philosophical, simple, and profound all at once. I love his metawriting which brings the reader back down to earth occasionally. I am ever in awe of his way of weaving history and literature into his works with wit and cleverness that has inspired even me, with a deep antipathy for "history", to find out more about Goethe's girlfriend and why she is important. ... Read more

13. Translating Milan Kundera (Topics in Translation)
by Michelle Woods
Paperback: 200 Pages (2006-05-16)
list price: US$59.95 -- used & new: US$35.90
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Asin: 1853598828
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"Translating Milan Kundera" uses new archival research to view the wider cultural scope of the translation issue involving the controversies surrounding Kundera's translated novels. It focuses on the language of the novels, Kundera's 'lost' works, writing as translation, interpretation, exile, censorship, and the social responses to translated fiction in the Anglophone world. ... Read more

14. The Art of the Novel (Perennial Classics)
by Milan Kundera
Paperback: 176 Pages (2003-04-01)
list price: US$12.99 -- used & new: US$7.27
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Asin: 0060093749
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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Every novelist's work contains an implicit vision of the history of the novel, an idea of what the novel is. I have tried to express here the idea of the novel that is inherent in my own novels.
-- Milan Kundera

Kundera brilliantly examines the work of such important and diverse figures as Rabelais, Cervantes, Sterne, Diderot, Flaubert, Tolstoy, and Musil. He is especially penetrating on Hermann Broch, and his exploration of the world of Kafka's novels vividly reveals the comic terror of Kafka's bureaucratized universe.

Kundera's discussion of his own work includes his views on the role of historical events in fiction, the meaning of action, and the creation of character in the post-psychological novel.

... Read more

Customer Reviews (21)

5-0 out of 5 stars A Moral-Existential History of the European Novel
This book has the property of timelessness, much like the "writing on writing" that is seen in Eric Auerbach and Kenneth Burke.However, it is in no way literary theory, nor is it, contrary to what some of the other reviewers seem to believe, "philosophical."It is a careful explication of the author's principles, not a grand theoretical schema.The instantiation of real human circumstances, ones deeply concerned with the problems entailed by Heidegger's in-der-Welt-sein, is what differentiates the novel from philosophy.It is nothing less and nothing more than a series of seven disquisitions on the historical development of the European novel.

"The Depreciated Legacy of Cervantes," serves to offer the substance for latter explication, meditation, and the occasional tangent.Its subject is the history and development of the European novel that is deeply rooted in existential concern.As Kundera says, "A novel that does not discover a hitherto unknown segment of existence is immoral."He is careful to delineate the novel's uniqueness as a historical artifact, and sees modernity as closely tied to the regnant existential themes as those explored by Joyce, Kafka, Sterne, Gombrowitz, and Broch (a somewhat epigrammatic essay on The Sleepwalkers is contained herein).But Kundera sees the inaugural journey into modernity as one that is essentially Cervantes'.Don Quixote enters a world that has seen the weakening influence of religious dogmatism.His experience contains none of the certitude of categorical absolutes that were so indicative of earlier existence (again, that desideratum for novelists).

3-0 out of 5 stars Demonstration and Intrigue
The book takes as its main subject the body of Kundera's own work.It is more demonstration than exploration of what constitutes the art of the novel. More focused on a central subject (Kundera's production) than exhaustive object (the generalization "novel"), the book approaches its argument from several vantages and seems most interested in revealing something as close to the impetus to write as possible. The tone is that of "serious play."

5-0 out of 5 stars Knowledge is the novel's only morality
In these brilliant reflections Milan Kundera discusses fundamental characteristics of the novel, its history and its immorality.
The object of the novel is the enigma of the self (the subject) functioning in a world full of ambiguities, where all things human are relative.

Novelists, like Cervantes, examined the self through its actions, which (partly) revealed the nature of the self.
A new generation, like Flaubert, delved into the self's invisible interior life (dreams, the irrational) in order to reveal the self's secrets.
Joyce dissects painstakingly the present.
In fine, F. Kafka poses the ultimate question of what possibilities are left in a world where the external determinants become so overpowering that internal impulses no longer carry weight.

Radical autonomy
Kafka's novels are the masterful proofs of the radical autonomy of the novel. By creating an extreme and unrealized possibility of the human world, Kafka expressed things about our human condition which no social or political thought could ever tell.

The novel is boundless freedom. It is not rational or based on verisimilitude.
Novelists should use this freedom to discover unrealized possibilities of the human world. A novelist who doesn't unveil a hitherto unknown segment of human existence is immoral.

These in depth meditations on one of the major components of human art are a must read for all lovers of world literature.

5-0 out of 5 stars Thank you, Milan Kundera
I haven't read a book this brilliant and intellectually-provoking in a long time. Milan Kundera is a first-class thinker who will be and has been pegged as elitist and pretentious by some reviewers here (and elsewhere I'm sure). Since we're living in an age of ever-diminishing education where a college diploma is equivalent to what a technical degree used to be, this is to be expected, and is indeed flattery. In the section of the book called Sixty-three Words, Kundera himself addresses the issue under "Elitism": The word "elitism" only appeared in France in 1967 [note: it appeared elsewhere in Europe as much as ten years earlier]. For the first time in history, the very language threw a glare of negativity, even mistrust, on the notion of elite. Official propaganda in the Communist countries began to pummel elitism and elitists at the same time. It used the terms to designate not captains of industry or famous athletes or politicians but only the cultural elite: philosophers, writers, professors, historians, figures in film and theater....It seems that in the whole of Europe the cultural elite is yielding to other elites. Over there, to the elite of the police apparatus. Here, to the elite of the mass media apparatus. No one will ever accuse these new elites of elitism...

In this dense but slim work, Kundera discusses the essence of the novel, which is in his view the exploration of uncharted territory through structure, insight, ideas and themes. Which is the idea of art in general, really, be it painting, music or anything else. In a revealing section, he talks about the tyranny of kitsch, which is the beautification (and in the process simplification) of everything, to make it palatable to the reader/viewer. Kitsch is prettified lies, in other words, and he points out how most of us live all of our lives this way, never looking below the surface, never grasping the complete and true meaning of most anything. With the mechanism of unfettered, unquestioned capitalism the reigning societal model in the 20th (and even more so now in the 21st) century, this uniformity is fast becoming the only acceptable model, in his (and my) view. Thus the very impetus that drives the novel--and all art--is, in his view (and my view) dying, if not dead.

Those stuck in the tyranny of kitsch may object: there are plenty of novels out there--Anne Rice and JK Rowlings and Ken Follett and Tom Clancey. Those are the purveyers of kitsch Kundera was talking about. To wit, jazz, another art form, is dead. Sure we have Wynton Marsalis et al, but they haven't advanced the art one iota. Lennie Tristano did and the world is still almost completely unfamiliar with his work, because jazz listeners aren't ready for real advances in the art; they'd prefer prepackaged familiarity being offered as advances. *That* Kundera would define as kitsch. Occasionally a true iconoclast breaks through the mold--Thelonious Monk--but they are usually celebrated long after they make their mark or for superficialities and eccentricities.Of course there *are* definitely exceptions to this grim scenario, but they tend to just prove the rule.

This will be a tough one for most people to accept or perhaps even really understand. To do so you have to look at *everything* differently and not accept anything at face value. People who do that are usually labeled "elite" and "pretentious." And as "market democracy," of workers who must expend most of their intellectual capital in pursuit and maintenance of their livelihoods, but with increasing disposable incomes, continue to grow (China, India, S. Korea, Brazil, Taiwan), look for kitsch, and the "received wisdom" contained in it, to increase.

Furthermore, Kundera's despair, if I may call it that (for he doesn't, but I get that feeling from him) is that most people don't understand the difference, cannot distinguish kitsch, insincerity, even if you explain it to them, distinguish it for them.They are too lost in the realm of emotions, defending themselves from what they perceive as a personal intellectual attack, a "pissing contest" of the minds.It is supremely ironic, then, that it is they who call others who make this distinction "pretentious," when the very meaning of the word reflects more upon them.By just fitting in with everyone else they are the ones harboring pretense, because they are just aping the behavior of everyone around them, or at the very least endorsing the superficial reality that Kundera discusses, and that he believes it's the novel's duty to overcome.This is a rather cerebral argument, however, and I don't expect it to resonate widely.If economics is the dismal science, art is the equivalent in the world of the aesthetic.

And so it goes. Kundera has cogently summed up the dilemma of his, and our, age.The Sixth part alone is worth the price of the book, and the summation of his philosophy of art in the Seventh is brilliant, with a perfect finishing observation that puts everything he has previously said into perspective--in one sentence he smashes to bits the modern wisdom of the premise of cultural-relativism. After closing this book I felt like I had spent an afternoon with an extremely thoughtful person who had seen a great deal and thought deeply about it.One can see how the forces of Communism shaped his values and concerns--our market-driven ones of today are alien to him, and we are the poorer for it.Too bad there are so few, if any, Kunderas anymore. Yes, he's still alive, but at 79, he's hardly a new voice or fresh mind, and to whom he'll leave his intellectual legacy is anyone's guess.And many would consider such concerns to be pretentious anyway.

Someone who previewed this review said it reads more like a philosophical discussion than a book review.That makes sense, since a philosophical discussion is precisely what Kunder'a book is.Perhaps a better title might have been "The Philosophy of the Novel"?

5-0 out of 5 stars Fascinating
This book is amazing. Like all other books of Kundera (some I've read myself, of some read summaries and reviews), this book too conveys the simplest philosophies in the best of words. For example, when he explains 'vertigo', you'll know his unique interpretation of things happening around. A must read for all literature lovers and will certainly make an interesting reading for those looking for a different definition or dimension of oft-repeated terms in English. ... Read more

15. Working Knowledge
by Petr Kral
Paperback: 160 Pages (2009-06-01)
list price: US$14.95 -- used & new: US$6.64
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Asin: 1901285731
Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars
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In this collection, Petr Kràl has the unerring ability to perceive, to catch the commonplace by surprise, and with unsettling clarity see beyond the everyday to the fabric of life beneath. Whether describing twilight, a toothpick, the ritual of shaving, or the act of going upstairs, his gaze is ingenuous, humble, amazed. Mute objects, fleeting gestures, changeless passions—Kràl  forces us to look at them anew. Each limpid, graceful essay is a brief voyage of discovery in which lowly objects and everyday actions, so often unobserved, are transfigured.
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4-0 out of 5 stars A sublime Concerto
In Petr Kral's "Working Knowledge" the passions for the ordinary are rendered in a lyrical aura that glows and flows in a mysterious serenity that pervades the most accepted conventional habits of human affairs. The pulse of these prose poems seems to be taken from the sleep of memory when dreams are cradled in a state of trance and advance beyond the sensibilities of the conscious divide that separates the absolute with the mundane. There is much to lament whenever the existential condition is generalized through particular microcosmic epiphanies, but the the orchestral compulsion to glean the ordinary and srain the pathos of being human from such quotidian happenings is a characteristic that makes of every glance, every gaze an ogling into the the mesmerizing champber of solitude from which we seek to embrace and assimilate the strnage ordeal of being alive. There is poetry in every chance encounter and Petr Kral, the Czech surrealist is only guilty of this nomenclature by association with a brand of artistic tendency that finds beauty in the wisdom of displacement. If we think of Andre Breton here we are misguided. rather this is a prose of a magical realism that unlike the Latin Ameirican guise surmises hidden gems in the most muddled situation, and lifts the fog whenever we feel compelled to become accostumed to the normalcy of the now, wherein the sublime is strained within slivers of time that rythmically stupify but when seen through the eyes of Kral becomes congeries of stupendous hypersensitivity. Translated from the French "Notions de Base" by Frank wynne we are introduced to a writer that will intensify your life experiences and excite your desire to stop assuming anything is mean and commonplace.

3-0 out of 5 stars forced meaning
firstly,i inherently rebel against the false identity of "we"in which this book is written.abstract thought cannot take on objective meaning,even the profoundest truths of psychotherapy are mere models.the individuals experience cannot be reduced to generalities that encompass a certain figure of "we".we can only hope to speak for ourselves and in so doing find correspondance in others.my experience may reflect yours but i stand short of assuming i know you.only a philosopher could make this mistake,even physicists are questioning this arrogance.
secondly he has over analysed and in so doing killed beauty."you pretend to know "said celine to miller"and this what kills the world"he has become a collector of encyclopedic inanity.his truths dont spring spontaneously to mind but are laboured and murdered in their detail.
i expected an opening into an inner life rich beyond mundane place and circumstance,but instead found a litany of forced associations about outward things it wouldnt of hurt us to reamain ignorant of.i believe
meaning should spring incidently as part of legitimate storyline.its just a question of focus. ... Read more

16. Jacques & His Master
by Milan Kundera
Paperback: 96 Pages (1985-03-27)
list price: US$13.00 -- used & new: US$7.17
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Asin: 0060912227
Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars
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Jacques and His Servant is a dramatic variation on the famous eighteenth-century novel by Denis Diderot, Jacques the Fatalist.The original, Jacques the Fatalist, is arguably the most radical and one of the most subversive books in the history of western literature.The theater has not had the equal of Jacques in subversiveness, or in disregard for classical form, although some of the plays of Beckett (Endgame, for instance, or Waiting for Godot or Happy Days) might qualify, and so might Alfred Jarry's blasphemous Ubu Roi.

Kundera's play is a variation on the original, not an adaptation of it. As the author notes in his introductory essay, an adaptation reduces its original, where a variation takes inspiration from it.Thus this play does not replicate the novel; it takes flight from it, the best form of homage. Jacques's is the anti-unity story par excellence: there is neither unity of place nor time nor narrative thrust, and the characters depicted in it, though real enough for the play's purpose, are neither realistic nor in any way sentimental. They talk about ideas as much as about feelings, and the narrative stream is constantly interrupted by digressions, interruptions and side-stories. Jacques is the least prudish of novels: this play carries that tradition forward: the dialogue is often bawdy, at times outright scurrilous. It is interesting: reading the dialogue in Diderot's novel, one is amused but not shocked but reading similar dialogue in Kundera's play, and knowing it is meant to be read aloud for an audience of others, the words shock in their bluntness and their earthiness.Jacques's repeated bragging about how he has cuckolded his best friend, for instance, and his master's acceptance of Jacques's boasting, seems raw even in the light of today's relaxed mores. It's not that we don't do these things, but we don't talk about them as dispassionately as Jacques and his master do.

Plot is pretty much irrelevant to this play, as it was to the novel it came from. As much as there is a story line, it isn't linear but it relates three separate instances of lechery, which turn out to be variations on the same theme. The subtexts are philosophical and literary, and resolutely intellectual -anti-emotional: first, that what happens (= is written) in the world, happens (this is fatalism); second, that we constantly relive (= re-edit) our lives, so life's meaning and import changes with time.

The play ends with the master asking Jacques to tell him where they should head next. Jacques objects: how can he lead the way if neither of them knows where they are going. The master insists and Jacques says, "all right then ... forward." The master asks which direction is forward. "Let me tell you a great secret," says Jacques, "One of mankind's oldest tricks. Forward is anywhere." And that is Kundera's (and Diderot's as well) last bit of wisdom for his audience as the master and Jacques stumble off the stage.


(I have loved Kundera since I first read his Laughable Loves. Of all the writers I have read, he is most like Diderot, my favorite Enlightenment writer and thinker and one of my heroes. I've felt for a long time that Kundera deserves a Nobel Prize: his writing is amazing.

(I read this play again because I hoped to convince the artistic director of the Prospect Theater Project that it was a good candidate for a Readers' Theater production this coming year. I had bought and read it when it first came out in English in 1985. In the twenty, almost twenty-five years since then, my memory had simplified the script into a two-character venture, with lots of dialogue but little action to take into account, like the closet drama of the late Roman Empire. But when I read the play over again, I found it has lots of action and even with doubling parts, it requires five actors, two women and three men, to mount a production. The openness about sexual matters and tolerance of libertinism it displays might also raise flags on a local stage. So much for Readers' Theater!But I still think it bears consideration asa staged play.

(A historical note: Kundera's play, which has been produced in several countries and had a long run in Paris, was premiered in America at the American Repertory Theater, under Susan Sontag's direction.)

5-0 out of 5 stars Kundera's first (and only) play
Milan Kundera always called himself a novelist. He makes a fine distinction between writers and novelists. He thinks that his poems and his play (this play) are a peripheral part of his work. However, this work isimportant for Kundera. It is a variation of one of his most favouritenovels: Diderot's "Jacques Le Fatalist". Kundera admires 18thcentury novel and this is one of its most finest examples. First Americanperformance of this play was directed by Susan Sontag. Also, it isinteresting that the preface for this play spured the famous polemics onDostoyevsky between Kundera and Joseph Brodski. ... Read more

17. Milan Kundera (Bloom's Modern Critical Views)
Library Binding: 172 Pages (2003-01)
list price: US$45.00 -- used & new: US$7.99
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Asin: 0791070433
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Though Milan Kundera has published both poetry and drama, he built his reputation as a writer and garned recognition from critics with the psychological and emotional depth of his novels. Learn more about Kundera's work through essays of some of the most respected literary critics.

This title, Milan Kundera, part of Chelsea House Publishers’ Modern Critical Views series, examines the major works of Milan Kundera through full-length critical essays by expert literary critics. In addition, this title features a short biography on Milan Kundera, a chronology of the author’s life, and an introductory essay written by Harold Bloom, Sterling Professor of the Humanities, Yale University. ... Read more

18. Identity
by Milan Kundera
 Hardcover: Pages (1998-01-01)
-- used & new: US$29.95
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Asin: B001U5O8PW
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19. The Joke,1983 publication
by Milan Kundera
 Paperback: Pages (1983)

Asin: B003GZLZLY
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20. Novels by Milan Kundera (Study Guide): The Unbearable Lightness of Being, the Book of Laughter and Forgetting, Slowness, the Joke
Paperback: 36 Pages (2010-09-14)
list price: US$14.14 -- used & new: US$14.13
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Asin: 1156856744
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This is nonfiction commentary. Purchase includes a free trial membership in the publisher's book club where you can select from more than a million books without charge. Chapters: The Unbearable Lightness of Being, the Book of Laughter and Forgetting, Slowness, the Joke, the Farewell Waltz, Ignorance, Immortality, Identity, Life Is Elsewhere. Source: Wikipedia. Free updates online. Not illustrated. Excerpt: The Unbearable Lightness of Being (1984), by Milan Kundera, is a philosophical novel about a man and two women and their lives in the Prague Spring of the Czechoslovak Communist period in 1968. Although written in 1982 the novel was not published until two years later in France. The Czech: and French: titles are more common worldwide. The Unbearable Lightness of Being takes place in Prague in 1968. It explores the artistic and intellectual life of Czech society during the Communist period, from the Prague Spring to the Soviet Unions August 1968 invasion and its aftermath. The characters are Tomá, a successful surgeon; his wife Tereza, a photographer anguished by her husband's infidelities; Tomás lover Sabina, a free-spirited artist; and the secondary characters Franz, the Swiss university professor and lover of Sabina; and Simon, Tomás estranged son from an earlier marriage. Challenging Friedrich Nietzsches concept of eternal recurrence (the universe and its events have already occurred and will recur ad infinitum), the storys thematic meditations posit the alternative that each person has only one life to live, and that which occurs in that life, occurs only once and shall never occur again thus the lightness of being; whereas eternal recurrence imposes a heaviness on our lives and on the decisions we make (it gives them weight, to borrow from Nietzsche's metaphor), a heaviness that Nietzsche thought could be either a tremendous burden or great benefit depending on one's perspective. The German expression Einmal ist keinm...More: http://booksllc.net/?id=845078 ... Read more

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