The Book of Laughter and ForgettingPaperback
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- Publisher: FABER & FABER
- Format: Paperback | 320 pages
- Dimensions: 122mm x 196mm x 26mm | 259g
- Publication date: 20 May 1996
- Publication City/Country: London
- ISBN 10: 057117437X
- ISBN 13: 9780571174379
- Sales rank: 6,471
Commissioned and closely monitored by Milan Kundera himself, this new translation brings a clarity and unmatched fidelity to the author's original text. Widely held as a work of genius, "The Book of Laughter and Forgetting" is the novel that first brought him to the forefront of the international literary scene. Rich in stories, characters and imaginative range, it was written while Kundera was still forbidden to publish in his home country of Czechoslovakia, which was then behind the Iron Curtain. In seven wonderfully integrated parts, different aspects of modern existence -- from the posthumous erasure of "enemies" of communism from the historical record, to the subtle agony of the fading memory of a lost love, to the bizarre sexlessnes of modern promiscuity -- are explored with boldness, subversive humor and the magical power of fiction.
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The French-Czech novelist Milan Kundera was born in the Czech Republic and has lived in France since 1975.
""The Book of Laughter and Forgetting calls itself a novel, although it is part fairy tale, part literary criticism, part political tract, part musicology, and part autobiography. It can call itself whatever it wants to, because the whole is genius.""-- New York Times""This book, as it bluntly calls itself, is brilliant and original, written with the purity and wit that invite us directly in."-- John Updike, "New York Times Book Review"
Kundera's forte is a sort of gently sad, sexy comedy in which his characters know they shouldn't. . . but do anyway. According to one of the apothegms in this book of allegorical sketches, "The only reason people want to be masters of the future is to change the past"; and that's a key to Kundera's work. Governments - like Kundera's own Czechoslovakia, which took back his citizenship after French publication of this book a year ago - are seen in clumsy attempts at rewriting history. And people behave pretty much that way too, especially when it comes to sex - which in Kundera's scheme usually ends up in one or both of two categories: hysterically laughable or too sad for words. A widowed waitress, desiring the return of her love letters and diaries left behind in Czechoslovakia after she fled, submits to the crude attentions of a younger man who promises to make the trip to fetch them out - but of course he doesn't. Poets get together to confess powerlessness before women. A group-sex party is too absurd for certain participants to hold back the guffaws. And, at his best, when lightly allegorical, Kundera gently nudges us over to his way of looking at things. But when he leaves out the representational level altogether, he's much less successful - as when, here, he belabors a concept of the "border" that separates us from our political and social and sexual true states. Intriguing yet uneven work, then, from a writer (The Joke, The Farewell Party) whose moody humor only sometimes builds up enough steam to move this quilt-like book along. (Kirkus Reviews)