Date Published: September 30, 2003
Goodreads Synopsis: A man and a woman meet by chance while returning to their homeland, which they had abandoned twenty years earlier when they chose to become exiles. Will they manage to pick up the thread of their strange love story, interrupted almost as soon as it began and then lost in the tides of history? The truth is that after such a long absence “their memories no longer match.” We always believe that our memories coincide with those of the person we loved, that we experienced the same thing. But this is just an illusion. Then again, what can we expect of our weak memory? It records only “an insignificant, minuscule particle” of the past, “and no one knows why it’s this bit and not any other bit.” We live our lives sunk in a vast forgetting, a fact we refuse to recognize. Only those who return after twenty years, like Odysseus returning to his native Ithaca, can be dazzled and astounded by observing the goddess of ignorance firsthand.
My View: My relationship with Kundera has been of a strange kind. For the longest time, I thought he was an Indian. Yes, I know. You can kill me now. *facepalm*
My first brief tryst with him was with Identity which I ambitiously thought I would borrow from a friend and finish it in a single night after I had had a long day and a couple of drinks. Pretty ambitious indeed. I think it was an easy read and I made it to page 50 but the flight home next day prevented me from finishing it.
And then came The Unbearable Lightness of Being which I had my eyes on since forever and finally had my own copy. I thought it was going great but somehow somewhere down the line, I put it by my bedside and forgot all about it.
A library visit introduced me to Ignorance and three days after having borrowed it, I finished it. Kundera. That’s Kundera for you. Or rather for me. Unique. Puzzling. Eliciting different reactions with different books. Sometimes I put him down, sometimes he’s unputdownable.
His writing. His slow-moving plot. His deeply etched characters. Their stories. Their life and yours depicted in them.
He takes you on a journey of worlds that intersect. Those that were once known, became alien, and then you try to familiarize yourself with them yet again only to realize that they no longer exist. These worlds that you once knew. They have vanished, disappeared since you left. And it’s futile to look for a part of yourself in the rubble of the past.
His words, mesmerizing, beseeching. Reminding you of things that once were. Making you ponder, reflect. On the mundane of things which you see with new eyes. His writing that creates magic.
“I imagine the feelings of two people meeting again after many years. In the past, they spent some time together, and therefore they think they are linked by the same experience, the same recollections. The same recollections? That’s where the misunderstanding starts: they don’t have the same recollections; each of them retains two or three small scenes from the past, but each has his own; their recollections are not similar; they don’t intersect; and even in terms of quantity they are not comparable: one person remembers the other more than he is remembered; first because memory capacity varies among individuals but also because they don’t hold the same importance for each other.”
Give Kundera a try. Maybe you will get lucky with the first book you pick up of his. 😉
Milan Kundera is the only author today who can take such dizzying concepts as absence, memory, forgetting, and ignorance, and transform them into material for a novel, masterfully orchestrating them into a polyphonic and moving work.
The Franco-Czech novelist Milan Kundera was born in Brno and has lived in France, his second homeland, for more than twenty years.
He is the author of the novels The Joke, Life Is Elsewhere, The Farewell Party, The Books of Laughter and Forgetting, The Unbearable Lightness of Being, and Immortality, and the short story collection Laughable Loves, all originally written in Czech.
Like Slowness, his two earlier nonfiction works, The Art ofthe Novel and Testaments Betrayed, were originally written in French.