4.11 (22,286 ratings by Goodreads)
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A novel, divided into seven parts and exploring immortality. His previous works include 'The Joke', 'The Book of Laughter and Forgetting' and 'The Unbearable Lightness of Being'.show more

Product details

  • Paperback | 400 pages
  • 124 x 196 x 30mm | 258.55g
  • London, United Kingdom
  • English
  • Main
  • 057114456X
  • 9780571144563
  • 24,390

About Milan Kundera

The French-Czech novelist Milan Kundera was born in the Czech Republic and has lived in France since 1975. He is the author of the internationally acclaimed and bestselling novels The Joke, Life is Elsewhere, The Farewell Waltz, The Book of Laughter and Forgetting, The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Immortality, and the short-story collection Laughable Loves -- all originally in Czech. His more recent novels , Slowness, Identity, and Ignorance, as well as his nonfiction works, The Art of the Novel, Testaments Betrayed, The Curtain, and Encounter, were originally written in more

Review Text

There's a wonderfully elegant and provocative story lurking within Kundera's latest, but it's not that easily accessible. In a metafictional conceit that works, Kundera, at his health club in Paris, sees an aging woman make a graceful but casual gesture of farewell to her swimming instructor. The gesture is seminal for Kundera, who begins to create a part-fictional/part-real existence for this woman whom he calls Agnes. Agnes, still mourning the death of her beloved father, yearns for solitude - for a life alone in the mountains of Switzerland away from, but in contact with, husband Paul and daughter Brigitte. Agnes also has a younger sister, Laura, who, Agnes feels, follows too closely behind her - "She imitated, but at the same time she corrected." Laura, who perfectly identifies with her body (unlike Agnes, who sees her body "as an old factory scheduled for demolition"), has many affairs - including a torrid one with Bernard, a famous media Personality, increasingly uncertain of his worth. As he relates Agnes's story, Kundera also meets with some of the characters involved and - in separate chapters in which he introduces literary greats like Goethe - explores the meaning of immortality, love, fame, and the contemporary preference for images (themes that preoccupy his fictional characters as well). The affair with Bernard ends, Laura is devastated, and Agnes retreats to Switzerland. Driving back, she is killed in a bizarre accident, and Laura, who had long yearned for brother-in-law Paul, finally catches up with her sister by marrying him. And Kundera, again at his club, now sees Paul perform "that clumsy male imitation of a beautiful female gesture" and disappear. Agnes and her gesture have inspired a remarkably tender and wise stow about love and death, but the novelist Kundera, gifted and original, might consider a separation from the philosopher Kundera, an often banal and intrusive heavy. (Kirkus Reviews)show more

Review quote

"Ingenious witty provocative and formidably intelligent, both a pleasure and a challenge to the reader." -- Jonathan Yardley, "Washington Post Book World""Inspired Kundera's most brilliantly imagined novel...A book that entrances, beguiles and charms us from first page to last."-- Susan Miron, "Cleveland Plain Dealer""Brilliantly mordant...beautifully translated...strong and mesmerizing." -- "New York Times"show more

Rating details

22,286 ratings
4.11 out of 5 stars
5 40% (8,875)
4 37% (8,320)
3 18% (4,065)
2 4% (828)
1 1% (198)

Our customer reviews

"Milan Kundera is a very good writer and I find his stories interesting and easy to read. In this book he alternates between the characters and himself, drawing them together as the novel progresses. Unlike in 'The book of laughter and forgetting' where the division is apparent, here it blends and seperates repeatedly. I found this very boring to read, and quite self-indulgent on the author's part. His earlier book 'The Joke' was an excellent, character-driven novel but I'm beginning to think that was just a once-off."show more
by a Book Depository customer
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