The Book of Laughter and Forgetting by Milan Kundera – Stuck in a BookSign up for our newsletters! Aaron Asher's new translation, commissioned and monitored by Kundera himself, conveys beautifully into English the nuances and the tone of the author's original text. The seven parts of Kundera's novel explore different aspects of human existence in the twentieth century, particularly as they are affected by life in the police state of the narrator's fictionalized Bohemia. In , three years after the Russian occupation of his homeland, Mirek--under surveillance by the not-so-secret police--seeks to retrieve his love letters from his former lover, Zdena. Marketa and her husband, Karel, must cope with Karel's increasingly childlike mother while at the same time dealing with the amoral Eva and memories of past desires. At a small French summer school, two American girls learn the lessons of laughter. Displaced to a provincial town in Western Europe, Tamina "all the other stories are variations on her own story" urgently tries to retrieve memories of her husband and their past together in Bohemia, memories recorded in notebooks that she left behind at her mother-in-law's house in Prague.
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The Book of Laughter and Forgetting
In , while exiled in France, the Czechoslovakian writer Milan Kundera wrote a novel destined to become an international success. Forbidden to be published in his homeland, Kundera's The Book of Laughter and Forgetting was written in Czech but first published in French as Le livre du rire et de l'oublie in It was subsequently translated into English and published in the United States in Although the book is generally classified as a novel, it does not have the traditional structure of beginning, middle, and end. Rather, the seven parts of the book have individual characters and different plot lines.
And translations really matter with Kundera — he is notoriously choosy, but approved of this one. Which, interestingly enough, was translated from the French translations of the original Czech. It is, indeed, a book of laughter and forgetting — themes which haunt the book like characters, offering the only unity available. Structurally, the book is divided into seven sections. But sections are not simple, discrete tales.
Kundera opens with a story about Gottwald, the first Communist president of Czechoslovakia, and Clementis, later an enemy of the state. When Clementis falls from grace, the propaganda department has his image removed from a famous photo of him with Gottwald. It's a great way to introduce the story of Mirek, a private citizen who's about to be arrested and erased by the government. Instead of staying home and burning his incriminating papers, Mirek takes a road trip to the house of his old ladylove, Zdena, to retrieve his love letters. He realizes that he's being tailed, but he continues, anyway.
by Milan Kundera
All rights reserved. Gottwald is surrounded by his best party buddies, including one Vladimir Clementis , who will later be erased from all photos taken on that day. Spoiler alert: Clementis is later executed. Despite the fact that many Czechoslovakians have seen the pics of Clementis with Gottwald, the government's propaganda machine has noooo problem removing Clementis from history. So, we're in Czechoslovakia,