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Thread: Milan Kundera

  1. #1
    Two Gun Kid Idril's Avatar
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    Milan Kundera

    I was seriously into Milan Kundera in the late 80's and then sort of forgot about him for awhile but I was perusing the aisles at Barnes and Noble a few moths ago and saw one of his books in the discount section and rediscovered an old favorite. I love his characters, so flawed and so human and they make such horrendously bad decisions and I love the fact that Kundera never expresses any kind of moral or value judgement about them or their actions and I love that all or most of them are written with the political turmoil of Czechoslovakia firmly in the background either in fact or in memory. Has anyone else read any of his novels?

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    Vincit Qui Se Vincit Virgil's Avatar
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    Which books are you talking about? Back in te eighties I tried to to read one or two of his novels and found them unreadable. I gave up on him.
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    Registered User Boris239's Avatar
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    I've read couple of Kundera's novels: "The unbearable lightness of being", "The joke" and I think one more, but I forgot the name. They were pretty easy and interesting read for me, although reading the third one you see that all of them are a bit similar. I've also heard that there is a really good movie "The unbearable lightness of being" with Juliette Binoche

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    weer mijn koekjestrommel Schokokeks's Avatar
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    I've also read The unbearable Lightness of Being. At the beginning, I felt quite intellectually stimulated and was enjoying his ideas and metaphoric language, but towards the end, it slackened very much. The very ending of the plot frustrated me very much...I never picked up another book by Kundera again.
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  5. #5
    I've read about half a dozen of his books. I really like his style of writing. I was very impressed with the short novel "Identity"; the way that it subtly degenerates from seeming reality into a surreal dreamlike state is perfectly accomplished.

    I am also a fan of the way in which Kundera shows us the inner thoughts of his characters and the way in which they don't quite match their actions and words. We all have thoughts that don't quite fit with what we think we ought to be thinking from time to time. No-one holds a mirror to these internal dialogues and conflicts better than Kundera.

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    Two Gun Kid Idril's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Xamonas Chegwe

    I am also a fan of the way in which Kundera shows us the inner thoughts of his characters and the way in which they don't quite match their actions and words. We all have thoughts that don't quite fit with what we think we ought to be thinking from time to time. No-one holds a mirror to these internal dialogues and conflicts better than Kundera.
    Exactly! For me, the plots are almost secondary, it's the characters themselves that hold so much interest. I've never read an author that gets so deeply into the heart and psyche of his subjects and as I mentioned before there is no sense of judgement or morality, there is no sense of watching a character make a bad decision and then waiting for him/her to "learn their lesson", to see the error of their ways, Kundera's characters just go about their lives, they often do stupid, unkind, selfish things and stuff happens and that's just life, there doesn't have to be any big epiphany or any lesson of good and evil. I don't think I'm explaining it very well but I love the freedom of behavior and the freedom from value assessments in Kundera's books.

    Some of his stuff can get a little bizarre, there is this sub plot in Immortality where Goethe and Hemmingway are hanging out in Heaven and having all these deep philosophical discussions and it's quite odd but they do make some interesting observations.

    Quote Originally Posted by Boris239
    I've also heard that there is a really good movie "The unbearable lightness of being" with Juliette Binoche
    Yes there is and it's one of those rare movies for me where I've read the book first and yet still enjoyed the movie. Daniel Day-Lewis and Lena Olin are also in the movie. It's definately worth a watch.
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    love to read... Bookworm Cris's Avatar
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    I agree

    I agree with you, Idril, about the fact that Kundera does´nt make any moral judgement of his characters. Im reading The Unbearable Lightness of Being just now, haven´t finished yet, but I´m loving it. The characters do make wrong choices, I don´t agree with Kundera´s Philosophical view in this book (against Nietzche´s eternal recurrence theory), but the way he puts his view is very well done. I loved the way he digresses about the characters, like he was chatting with the reader about real people, except that he reminds us constantly that they are made-up characters, not real. But they seem real for us.
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    I've read a few, and very much like his work, though his earlier writing is much better than his more recent publications, I think. He seems to have gone a bit too bitter for me, a bit too conservative and reactionary.

    His ability to break the narrative with intrusive monologues in an absolutely fluid and relevant manner is almost unrivalled. I read once that his characters are aspects of himself, explored to their extreme limits. But I think it's his ability to discuss those aspects from both within and without the structure that really makes him unique.

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    Dreamtime Singer Scharphedin2's Avatar
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    (Sorry, if I am reviving a rather old thread)

    It has been more than ten years since I read most of Kundera's books, but I would still cite him as a favorite author on the basis of especially The Unbearable Lightness of Being and Immortality. Without knowing much about Kundera's life, I am sure that this book sprang from experiences that were very intimate to him -- maybe therefore the continuous need to remind the reader that they are characters in a book. I agree with several posters above on the authenticity of these characters, and how you feel that you are walking alongside them with Kundera, as their lives unfold. The book is beautifully written, and it is a joy to follow the various tangents that Kundera departs on into philosophy, recent history and morality. Two sequences in particular stand out for me, and are part of the high-light reel of all of literature for me: The scene in which Sabina meets her Swiss lover for lunch, and she expounds on how modern culture depresses her with all its incessant and needless noise, the insistence on speed in all things, the artificiality and lack of real beauty. The second scene is the one in which Kundera describes Karenin's fate, and goes on to talk about man's treatment of animals. These two moments are very much with me always, and they constitute good examples for me, of why reading has value and importance (at least in my life).

    The later books really do not measure up. They are not awful, but just tend to pale in the light of the earlier works. I wonder, if this has anything to do with Kundera writing in French? I remember reading somewhere that he not only took up residence in France, but also adopted the French language for his writing at a certain point.

    One book from the later period that I did really enjoy was the booklength essay entitled Testaments Betrayed. Here Kundera talks about the art of the novel, and ranges far and wide in his discussion of various aesthetic and historical issues related to the novel. It has a lot of the same qualities as the earlier fictional works.

    In closing, I think Kundera himself would have appreciated the following little anecdote that involves one of his books: I was living and going to school in Chicago in the mid-90s, and as most students, I was pinching pennies. For some time, I had had my eye on a hardcover first edition of Kundera's latest novel at the local bookstore. Now, I had been prudent and good, and had not purchased it, but then one day, it was marked down to half price, and I could abstain no longer. A little while later, I was waiting for the El, and spending the time perusing the colorful dustjacket of my newly purchased book. So, I did not notice that someone was standing quite close to me in the otherwise deserted underground, until I heard a sort of smooth, dark girl's voice: "That is a nice book," she said. As I turned my head, there was the most gorgeous, mediteranean beauty that I ever saw, wearing a black summer dress, long raven hair spilling down her back, and a bemused smile gracing her copper-toned face. I stammered something about Kundera, and how much I admired his writing, and whether she had read any of his books. I imagine that she gave a short sigh, and still smiling told me that "no," she did not know Kundera, "I just like new books..." "Here comes my train...," she then said, and sure enough a train was coming to a stop at the platform. The dream-beauty disappeared into one of its cars, the doors closed, and the train disappeared. I looked down at my precious book, and read the title to myself: "Slowness."

    For anyone, who has yet to pick up Kundera, I envy you. Happy reading.
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    Serious business Taliesin's Avatar
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    We have read his "Unbearable Lightness of Being" for quite some times and loved it. The characters are so wonderfully interesting and yet everyday. We haven't yet taken time to read his other novels since our literature teacher said that he was kinda repeating himself in the other novels, but we guess we will read them someday.
    However, it is 2:20 here, so we can't write anything more about it. Feel....sleepy....
    If you believe even a half of this post, you are severely mistaken.

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    I really agree that Kundera has a very open style, and that is what makes me not to read his books... Anyway, he is exceptional and that is what makes him good.

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    Jai Keshava NikolaiI's Avatar
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    I want to read the Unbearable Lightness of Being; I started it and got maybe 40 pages into it at a friend's house...

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    Booze Hound Noisms's Avatar
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    The Unbearable Lightness of Being and Innocence are that very rare thing: postmodern works that still manage to be moving, honest and genuine.

    I like The Book of Laughter and Forgetting too, which is incredibly weird and disturbing: a mixture of a surrealist novel and an autobiography - both mostly referring to the rule of the Communists in Czechoslovakia. In its own way, I think the book is even scarier than 1984 in the way it shows what a totalitarian regime does to people - scarier because it really happened.

  14. #14
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    For years I had been glancing at Kundera's works in the library before I ventured into borrowing one of them when I was in - roughly - eight grade. I randomly picked (randomly, for I was entirely unacquainted with his works and did not know what to seek for at all) Slowness and The Art of the Novel off one of the shelves to see who the hell that Kundera I have heard of actually was and what he wrote about.
    Perhaps I started with wrong books, I remember vaguely having liked The Art of the Novel, but Slowness has entirely disappeared from my memory. Perhaps I was too young and had different needs in literature at that moment, but obviously I concluded there was not much interesting for me in Kundera so I left him "wait for some better times"...

    ... and they came. Thankfully, because Kundera was one of my greatest literary 'discoveries' in sense of authors and works I tried before, but then decided to come back to and really liked them on the second try. In the last semester of previous academic year, and during summer break, I have read Identity, Ignorance, Immortality, The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Life is Elsewhere, The Book of Laughter and Forgetting and I re-read The Art of the Novel. Currently I am in the process of reading The Joke.

    Kundera is for me one of those authors that come "in phases". There are phases when I can read one after another of his works, there are phases in which I need a break from him and cannot read him at all; actually, me reading The Joke now came after one of the pause phases. There is something disturbing, but at the same time incredibly appealing in his works, which often requires of me to be in special emotional and mental state to read Kundera.

    My favourite Kundera's work is Life is Elsewhere. By the way, I also greatly prefer his Czech writings to his French writings.

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    Booze Hound Noisms's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Anastasija View Post

    My favourite Kundera's work is Life is Elsewhere. By the way, I also greatly prefer his Czech writings to his French writings.
    I'm not a Kundera expert; when did he stop writing in Czech and turn to French? I was under the impression he wrote all his books in Czech, but obviously I'm wrong...

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