Milan Kundera Immortality
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Milan Kundera: Roads \u0026 Routes
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The form is eloquent in itself and it tells us that, whatever the characters have undergone, they have undergone for the sake of telling about it, for transmitting, communicating, confessing, writing it. In such a world, where everything gets told, the weapon that is both most readily available and most deadly is disclosure. This observation, of course, comes not just from an acute literary historian, but from someone who has lived under the scrutiny of the secret police. In The Book of Laughter and Forgetting , Tamina, a Czech exile living in an unnamed western city, will go to any lengths to retrieve 11 lost notebooks from her native country. What is urging her on is not a desire for beauty.
It is a desire for life. Through this story and its other, interconnected companions, The Book of Laughter and Forgetting beautifully illuminates the points in our lives at which identity — the very construction of our selves through memory — intersects with the political forces that are in conflict with it. It is a theme inseparable from the context in which Kundera was raised, the world of Soviet-era communism, a context which fascinated and to some extent baffled western observers in the 70s and 80s, and on which his novels seemed to open a unique window, bringing its complexities to life with unmatched irony, melancholy and intellectual rigour.
No wonder that these novels seemed, on first publication, to be among the most essential literary documents of their time. Hard on the heels of the novels themselves came a book that sought among other things to explicate them: The Art of the Novel , a collection of seven essays in which Kundera laid out his conception of the European novelistic tradition and his own place within it. In fact you can no longer purchase a print edition in this country. Did Kundera achieve this, however, at the expense of something crucial — psychological truth to life? It means only that there are other enigmas, other questions that my novels pursue primarily … To apprehend the self in my novels means to grasp the essence of its existential problem.
To grasp its existential code. But characters tend to live longer in the memory than ideas. The New York Times. ISSN Retrieved Works by Milan Kundera. The Owner of the Keys Jacques and his Master. Hidden categories: Articles containing Czech-language text. Namespaces Article Talk. Views Read Edit View history. Help Learn to edit Community portal Recent changes Upload file.
Kundera's earlier novel "The Unbearable Lightness of Being" went with being a nonperson in a totalitarian culture, and in "Immortality" seems to rise out of being an expatriate. Even Agnes springs from a gesture that the author once noticed while sitting beside the swimming pool at his health club in Paris. Such paradoxes multiply throughout. Kundera loves to stand conventional words and ideas on their heads. Agnes's younger sister, Laura, decides to fight for her lover, Paul, and then by fighting him loses him. Elsewhere the author remarks: "I take the liberty of maintaining that without the art of ambiguity there is no real eroticism, and the stronger the ambiguity, the more powerful the excitement. Who cannot recall from childhood the wonderful game of doctor!
And still elsewhere he writes: "The concept of human rights goes back some years, but it reached its greatest glory in the second half of the 's. Alexander Solzhenitsyn had just been exiled from his country, and his striking figure, adorned with a beard and handcuffs, hypnotized Western intellectuals sick with a longing for the great destiny that had been denied them. It was only thanks to him that they started to believe, after a year delay, that in Communist Russia there were concentration camps; even progressive people were now ready to admit that imprisoning someone for his opinions was not just.
And they found an excellent justification for their new attitude: Russian Communists violated human rights, in spite of the fact that these rights had been gloriously proclaimed by the French Revolution itself! Despite its tendency to lecture the reader, "Immortality" never suffers from didacticism. As always, its author proves himself to be a master of orchestrating leitmotifs. Nothing is random in the text, not an incident in its somewhat attenuated main plot about the interlocking lives and loves of half a dozen Parisians; not a phrase or a gesture.
And Mr. Kundera can be funny: "Music: a pump for inflating the soul. Hypertrophic souls turned into huge balloons rise to the ceiling of the concert hall and jostle each other in unbelievable congestion. One is tempted by Mr. Kundera's writing to revise one's definition of a plot. Instead of calling it an action that arouses expectations, one might describe it as a series of verbal gestures that arouse curiosity.