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After the gravity of "The Unbearable Lightness of Being" and "Immortality," "Slowness" comes as a surprise: It is certainly Kundera's lightest novel, a "divertimento," an "opera buffa," with, as the author himself says, "not a single serious word in it"; then, too, it is the first of his novels to have been written in French (in the eyes of the French public, turning him definitively into a "French writer"). Disconcerted and enchanted, the reader follows the narrator of "Slowness" through a midsummer's night in which two tales of seduction, separated by more than 200 years, interweave and oscillate between the sublime and the comic. In the 18th-century narrative, the marvelous Madame de T. summons a young nobleman to her chbteau one evening and gives him an unforgettable lesson in the art of seduction and the pleasures of love. In the same chbteau at the end of the 20th century, a hapless young intellectual experiences a rather less successful night. Distracted by his desire to be the center of public attention at a convention of entomologists, Vincent loses the beautiful Julie -- ready and willing though she is to share an evening of intimacy and sexual pleasure with him -- and suffers the ridicule of his peers. A "morning-after" encounter between the two young men from different centuries brings the novel to a poignant close: Vincent has already obliterated the memory of his humiliation as he prepares to speed back to Paris on his motorcycle, while the young nobleman will lie back on the cushions of his carriage and relive the night before in the lingering pleasure of memory. Underlying this libertine fantasy is a profound meditation on contemporary life: about thesecret bond between slowness and memory, about the connection between our era's desire to forget and the way we have given ourselves over to the demon of speed. And about "dancers" possessed by the passion to be seen, for whom life is merely a perpetual show emptied of every intimacy and every joy."Irresistible. . . . "Slowness" is an ode to sensuous leisure, to the enjoyment of pleasure rather than just the search for it."--Cathleen Schine, "Mirabella" "Audacity, wit, and sheer brilliance." "--New York Times Book Review" "Paradoxically, "Slowness." the fastest paced of Kundera's novels as well as the most accessible." "--Boston Globe"show more

Product details

  • Paperback | 144 pages
  • 124 x 194 x 12mm | 117.94g
  • London, United Kingdom
  • English
  • Main
  • 0571179436
  • 9780571179435
  • 76,292

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

An elegantly fashioned and almost forbiddingly urbane new novel, written in French, by the renowned Czech author of such ironical and sophisticated fictions as The Book of Laughter and Forgetting (1980) and The Unbearable Lightness of Being (1984). Kundera is nothing if not a theoretical writer, and he is here concerned with the contrast between older and newer ways of thinking and feeling - specifically with the now devalued ideal of hedonism in a culture whose embrace of "speed" as the measure of all things denies us the possibility of having experiences at leisure and recollecting them in tranquility (or, as his unnamed narrator complains, "Why has the pleasure of slowness disappeared?"). The idea is explored in two contrasting stories, each of which is embellished by discursive commentary. One, set in 18th-century France, and bearing acknowledged resemblances to Pierre Cholderos de Laclos's classic Les Liaisons dangereuses, recounts the amorous education given a delighted young nobleman by his relaxed, worldly-wise mistress. The other, set in the same locale (then a "country chateau," now a hotel), describes the comical interactions of a group of intellectuals gathered for an entomological conference and variously involved with one another. Memorable participants include a would-be libertine whose bad habit of thinking prevents him from having sex, a woman filmmaker whose romantic unhappiness locks her into two mutually abusive relationships, and a Czech scientist whose pride in his dissident political status takes the curious ancillary form of a very nearly neurotic worship of the body. They're all riddled with a self-defeating tendency to second-guess their own spontaneous impulses - unhappy avatars of this bleakly monitory novel's declaration that "When things happen too fast nobody can be certain about anything . . . not even about himself." Dependably inventive and amusing, especially in its delicious sensitivity to the convolutions of contemporary self-consciousness, the novel is nevertheless overly argumentative and ever so slightly preening, brief as it is. Not vintage Kundera. (Kirkus Reviews)show more

Review quote

"Irresistible. . . ."Slowness is an ode to sensuous leisure, to the enjoyment of pleasure rather than just the search for it."-- Cathleen Schine, "Mirabella""Audacity, wit, and sheer brilliance."-- "New York Times Book Review""Paradoxically, "Slowness. . . .is the fastest paced of Kundera's novels as well as the most accessible."-- "Boston Globe"show more

Rating details

10,810 ratings
3.66 out of 5 stars
5 20% (2,206)
4 37% (4,034)
3 32% (3,478)
2 8% (879)
1 2% (213)
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