The Joke

The Joke


By (author) Milan Kundera, Translated by Michael Henry Heim

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  • Publisher: FABER & FABER
  • Format: Paperback | 336 pages
  • Dimensions: 126mm x 198mm x 20mm | 222g
  • Publication date: 21 August 2000
  • Publication City/Country: London
  • ISBN 10: 0571166938
  • ISBN 13: 9780571166930
  • Sales rank: 44,875

Product description

All too often, this brilliant novel of thwarted love and revenge miscarried has been read for its political implications. Now, a quarter century after "The Joke" was first published and several years after the collapse of the Soviet-imposed Czechoslovak regime, it becomes easier to put such implications into perspective in favor of valuing the book (and all Kundera 's work) as what it truly is: great, stirring literature that sheds new light on the eternal themes of human existence. The present edition provides English-language readers an important further means toward revaluation of "The Joke." For reasons he describes in his Author's Note, Milan Kundera devoted much time to creating (with the assistance of his American publisher-editor) a completely revised translation that reflects his original as closely as any translation possibly can: reflects it in its fidelity not only to the words and syntax but also to the characteristic dictions and tonalities of the novel's narrators. The result is nothing less than the restoration of a classic.

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Author information

Milan Kundera was born in Brno and has lived in France for over forty years. He is the author of the internationally acclaimed and bestselling novels The Joke (1967), Life is Elsewhere (1973), The Farewell Waltz (1976), The Book of Laughter and Forgetting (1978), The Unbearable Lightness of Being (1984), Immortality (1991), and the short-story collection Laughable Loves (1969), which were all originally written in Czech. His play, Jacques and His Master (1984), Slowness (1995), Identity (1998) and Ignorance (2002) were all originally written in French. Milan Kundera has also written extensively about the novel in four collections of essays - The Art of the Novel (1968), Testaments Betrayed (1993), The Curtain (2007) and Encounter (2009).

Review quote

"A thoughtful, intricate, ambivalent novel with the reach of greatness in it."--John UpdikeA

Editorial reviews

Shades of the Rocky movies: This is English translation number five of Kundera's 1967 novel. The novel itself is one of the mordant fictions of Kundera's Czech-period - the story of a youthful jape made by a young man, Ludvik Jahn, a joke that escapes all proportions in the unnatural quiet of repression and fear of the tone-deaf state. In an odd way, it may be Kundera's moat musical fiction, all about over- and under-tones. But the arrogant meanspiritedness Kundera exhibits here in his foreword about inaccuracies in Michael Henry Helm's 1982 Harper "retranslation" of the first American edition (1969 Coward McCann) amounts to not much more than a literary tantrum: "...In good conscience he [Heim] produced the kind of translation that one might call translation-adaptation (adaptation to the taste of the time and of the country for which it is intended, to the taste, in the final analysis, of the translator). Is this the current, normal practice? It's possible. But unacceptable. Unacceptable to me." So, Kundera tells us, he set to work on what we're now to take as the "definitive version": "On enlarged photocopies of the fourth version, I entered word-for-word translations of my original, either in English or in French, wherever I thought necessary...and soon I realized that...a new, fifth version was taking shape." What's this, the Dead Sea Scrolls? Translators, writers, readers, all can be offended by the authorial gracelessness, publishing astigmatism, and general waste of paper this amounts to. Buy someone's first novel instead. (Kirkus Reviews)