Milan kundera the book of laughter and forgetting

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The Book of Laughter and Forgetting is a novel by Milan Kundera, published in France in It is composed of seven separate narratives united by some. Rich in its stories, characters, and imaginative range, The Book of Laughter and Forgetting is the novel that brought Milan Kundera his first big international. The Book of Laughter and Forgetting (): Milan Kundera: Books.

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Milan Kundera The Book Of Laughter And Forgetting

Milan Kundera, he tells us, was as a young man among that moiety of Czechs--" the more dynamic, the more intelligent, the better half"--who. It helps middle and high school students understand Milan Kundera's literary What is The Book of Laughter and Forgetting About and Why Should I Care?. Free summary and analysis of the events in Milan Kundera's The Book of Laughter and Forgetting that won't make you snore. We promise.

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. This is one of the senses of forgetting in the book. He also includes himself — or, at least, an author called Milan Kundera — and each section incorporates tangents, anecdotes, fables, parables. Here he is on one of the varieties of laughter in the book: You certainly remember this scene from dozens of bad films: a boy and a girl are running hand in hand in a beautiful spring or summer landscape. Running, running, running, and laughing. All churches, all underwear manufacturers, all generals, all political parties, are in agreement about that kind of laughter, and all of them rush to put the image of the two laughing runners on their billboards advertising their religion, their products, their ideology, their nation, their sex, their dishwashing powder. Kundera has a level of control, and imagination, that makes these patchworks succeed. Indeed, his novels that try to follow a traditional narrative structure are the least successful, to my mind. The Book of Laughter and Forgetting is such a triumph because he seems to throw out all the rules, and start from scratch with what a book can be.

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. Yet The Book of Laughter and Forgetting is more than a collection of connected short stories.

Indeed, the separate sections do not even correspond to the traditional notions regarding short stories. Rather, they are snippets of a story interspersed with historical commentary interspersed with philosophical meditation interspersed with autobiographical detail. What holds the entire work together is the compellingly controlled voice of the narrator, a voice that remains consistent throughout the text.

This voice, Kundera himself or a character playing the part of " Milan Kundera " , gradually reveals to the reader the themes and variations that comprise the novel.

The historical context of The Book of Laughter and Forgetting is important for any reader approaching the text. From an exile's perspective, Kundera writes of his nation's descent from a republic to a Communist dictatorship, its brief resurgence as an open society during the Prague Spring of , and the country's return to a totalitarian police state, after Soviet tanks rolled into Prague in August , reestablishing Czechoslovakia as a Communist Eastern-bloc nation.

The Book of Laughter and Forgetting explores the ways that governments and people both create and extinguish memories, how laughter can be both angelic and demonic, and what is required to remain human in the face of crushingly dehumanizing circumstances. A recent edition of the novel, translated from French by Aaron Asher, was published by Perennial Classics in Indeed, his father's musical influence can be seen in many of Kundera's later works.

In , Kundera completed secondary school and enrolled in Charles University in Prague. He began his studies in literature, later changing his emphasis to film and directing. He joined the Communist Party in as an idealistic youth; he quickly became disillusioned, however, as the Party quickly established a police state. An outspoken critic of the Party, he was expelled in Kundera joined the faculty of the Film Academy in Kundera published his first collection of poems in , while working as a translator and playwright.

By , Kundera was readmitted to the Communist Party. By this time, he had become a well-known literary celebrity in Czechoslovakia. In , however, he wrote a different book under the same title. Kundera began writing his first novel, Zert, in , although it was not published in Czechoslovakia until due to censorship. The book is a satire of totalitarianism in Czechoslovakia, and was first published in English as The Joke in In , for a brief period, restrictions on writers and artists lifted slightly in what became known as the " Prague Spring.

In August, , Soviet tanks entered Prague, and a new repressive government was installed by the Soviets; this government ruled Czechoslovakia for twenty-one years.

As a leader of the Prague Spring movement, Kundera found himself blacklisted: he could not publish any writing in Czechoslovakia and he lost his job at the university. In , Kundera received permission from the government to move to France. There he began The Book of Laughter and Forgetting, his most important work to date.

Written first in Czech, the novel was then translated into French as Le livre du rire et de l'oublie and was published in Soon thereafter, the book was translated into English and was published in In , Kundera, working with translator Aaron Asher, issued a new English edition of the novel. Since the publication of The Book of Laughter and Forgetting, Kundera has written many well-known novels, plays, short stories, and essays, including The Unbearable Lightness of Being and, more recently, Ignorance Kundera has been honored with a host of international prizes for his fiction, and critics consider him to be one of the finest writers of the twentieth century.

An intensely private person, Kundera lives in Paris with his wife, Vera Hrabankova. Although the stories in each section resonate with the other stories, the book does not have an overarching plot.

Rather, each section functions as a variation on a theme, in much the same way the various parts of a musical symphony interact. In addition, Kundera frequently interrupts the story he is telling in each section with autobiographical remarks, essays on Czechoslovakian history, philosophical musings, or additional stories. Consequently, the plot does not function as it might in a more traditional novel. The leader is standing on a balcony in Prague with his comrade Vladimir Clementis at an important public gathering.

Because it is cold and windy, and because Gottwald has no hat, Clementis puts his own fur hat on Gottwald's head. The moment is captured in photographs displayed throughout the country.

However, four years later, Clementis is hanged for treason, and carefully airbrushed out of the picture. All that remains of him in Czech memory is his hat. The fur hat as a metaphor of public memory resonates throughout the rest of the text. While Gottwald and Clementis were historical figures, it is likely that the anecdote about the hat is fictional.

The story then turns to Mirek, a man who meticulously writes down everything that he and his friends discuss in a diary, in spite of the fact that his papers might be confiscated. He decides he will put his journals in a safe place, but first, he wants to retrieve old love letters from Zdena, a woman he had an affair with twenty-five years earlier.

The only reason he wants the letters, Kundera surmises, is that she is ugly, and he does not want it to be known that he had an affair with an ugly woman. He notices as he drives to Zdena's that two men are following him. Zdena refuses to give him the letters and he realizes after he leaves her apartment that it is now too late to remove the incriminating documents from his own house.

Mirek is convinced that Zdena has betrayed him to the police; however, she has not done so, and Kundera reveals that she loves Mirek. By the time he returns home, the police are already there. He is sentenced to six years in prison, his son is sentenced to two years, and ten of his friends are sentenced for one to six years, depending on the severity of their transgressions. The significance of the section title becomes apparent: although the letters still exist, they are lost to Mirek.

In addition, Mirek has overestimated the importance of the letters held by Zdena and underestimated the incriminating nature of the letters left at his house. Marketa has never liked her mother-in-law, but as the story takes place, her feelings soften somewhat.

Karel and Marketa invite Mama to stay with them for a week. Mama, however, has confused the day she is supposed to return to her home. This is unfortunate because Eva, a woman with whom the couple has sexual relations, arrives before Mama has left. In a comic scene, Mama comes into the sitting room to say goodnight to the three young people, just as Eva comes in scantily clad, and Marketa approaches the room with nothing on but a necklace. Marketa hastily retreats before Mama notices her.

Later, readers learn that Marketa has been one of Karel's mistresses, and that the two of them arrange for her to meet Eva. Eva never realizes that her new best friend has been intimate with her husband before the three of them begin their mutual affair.

Many things happen at once in this story: Karel and Marketa's marriage seems troubled, Marketa falls in love with Eva, and Karel comes to an understanding of his mother and has warmer feelings toward her.

The Book of Laughter and Forgetting by Milan Kundera – Stuck in a Book

Love, it seems, heals several of the characters. They are reading a play by Eugene Ionesco , The Rhinoceros, and they do not really understand it. The narrator presumably Kundera interrupts this story to interject a meditation on the subject of laughter, then to tell the story of how he wrote an astrology column under an assumed name after he lost his job in He next turns to a discussion of two kinds of laughter: that of the angels and that of the devil.

The angels' laughter, he asserts, is secondary to the devil's, and is an imitation. The devil's laugh is in response to the meaninglessness of the world, while the angels' laugh rejoices in the orderliness of the world. Kundera then returns to the story of the young Americans, who completely miss the subversive nature of the play they are studying.

Next he returns to the story of the young woman who gave him the job writing horoscopes and who lost her own job as a consequence. He closes the section by revealing that he knows he must not live among the people he loves any longer, and he decides to leave his homeland. She is a thirty-two-year-old Czech exile, living somewhere in Western Europe , and working as a waitress.

She came to this unspecified location with her husband several years earlier, but he has since died. She struggles to retain her memories of their life together. As time goes on, she becomes obsessed with recovering a set of notebooks and letters that she gave to her mother-in-law for safe keeping when she and her husband fled Czechoslovakia.

The Book of Laughter and Forgetting by Milan Kundera: Summary & Analysis

In these notebooks, she recorded the details of her life. Now, in order to keep her memories from fading, she feels she needs to retrieve the notebooks and letters. However, it is not safe for her to return to Czechoslovakia. Various people promise her that they will retrieve the notebooks for her, but in turn, each withdraws their offer. Tamina is so desperate that she even sleeps with a man who promises to get them for her. Finally, her brother agrees to retrieve them. When he arrives at Tamina's mother-in-law's home, he discovers that the package has been opened and the notebooks have been read but it is not clear who has read them.

At the same time, Hugo, the man Tamina has been sleeping with, decides he cannot go to Czechoslovakia because he has published an article that he believes will cause him problems with Czech authorities. These revelations disturb Tamina greatly, and she feels a terrible revulsion for Hugo. Even worse, she realizes that her affair with Hugo has erased all memory of the sexual relations she once shared with her beloved husband. That Kundera titles two sections of his book "Lost Letters" reveals the importance he places on written records.

Through these sections, he explores the consequences of lost letters as a substitute for lost memories. The closest he can come to a definition is "a state of torment created by the sudden sight of one's own misery. In a story that illustrates the concept, a young student invites a butcher's wife named Kristyna who is from a small town he has visited to meet with him in Prague. The young student expects to sleep with her. However, he is given a last-minute invitation to a gathering of famous poets on the same evening his guest is supposed to arrive.

He tells her of his dilemma, and she urges him to go, so long as he will bring her an autographed copy of a book of poems. He agrees. Kundera gives each of the famous Czech poets names of other literary figures from the past such as Voltaire, Petrarch, and Boccacio these are the names of actual writers, none of whom are Czech.

He uses the occasion of their gathering to parody all such gatherings and to parody self-important writers. The student returns home after the drunken evening, and attempts to have sex with Kristyna.

She refuses, saying that it will kill her to have sex. He believes that her love for him is so great that she cannot bear the thought of living without him if they have sex. In the morning, however, he discovers that her fear of pregnancy caused her to refuse; giving birth, not her love for the student, would kill her. The emotion the student then feels, Kundera explains, is litost. Part Six: The Angels Kundera opens this section which has the same title as Part Three with a retelling of the story of Klement Gottwald and Clementis, this time inserting the detail that Franz Kafka attended school in the building where the two men stood on the balcony.

He is suggesting that Kafka, writing many years before the Communist takeover, predicted that in the modern age, Prague would be a city where people could simply disappear, the memory of their existence obliterated by the state.

Next, Kundera turns to the story of his father's last years. A famous musicologist, the elder Kundera suffers from aphasia during the last ten years of his life, and the condition causes him to gradually lose all memory of words.

Kundera uses this as the backdrop for the tale he begins to tell, returning once more to Tamina's story. Tamina is deeply saddened by the loss of her husband, and is unhappy with her life.

One day, a young man comes into the restaurant where she works and offers to take her away, to a place where she can forget that she has forgotten much of her life with her husband.

She agrees to go with the man. What follows is a long dreamlike sequence in which Tamina is taken by boat to an island inhabited by children who have no memories. She is the only adult there, and must learn to play their games. The children begin to fondle her, and finally they rape her. The sexual games they play out while using her cause friction among the children, who begin to quarrel and become hostile. When Tamina is finally able to put a stop to the sexual abuse, the children mistreat her in other ways.

Although Tamina has now forgotten Prague and her husband, she is terribly unhappy. Trying to escape the island, she dives into the water and begins to swim. She swims all night, only to find in the morning that the children have rowed a boat out to meet her and are watching her.

The Book of Laughter and Forgetting

She struggles, then slips beneath the water and drowns. Part Seven: The Border The final section of The Book of Laughter and Forgetting tells the story of a man named Jan and his sexual encounters at orgies or with a variety of women, most notably Edwige, who is also his friend.

One of Jan's friends, Passer, is dying of cancer. In the midst of this, Jan attends an orgy at a house owned by a woman named Barbara. Throughout, he finds himself preoccupied with the idea of the border. Jan spends a good deal of time thinking about the various kinds of borders that exist in the world, of the lines that separate one thing from another.

On the one hand, the border is what separates men and women. By the end of the chapter however, it is also the border that separates the living and the dead. When Passer dies, all the characters gather for his funeral. Papa Clevis, an older man who is usually very self-possessed and serious, loses his hat. The man who is to give the funeral oration does not notice, however.

All the mourners can think about is the hat, and how it has toppled into the grave on top of the coffin. Although people struggle to control themselves, they are overcome with laughter.

In the last scene of the chapter, Jan goes with Edwige to a nude beach. The scene serves to demonstrate how two people, lovers for many years, are not able to fully communicate with each other. Edwige comments on how beautiful all the nude bodies are; Jan, however, is reminded of the nakedness of the Jews as they were herded into extermination chambers during the Holocaust. Kundera writes, "They never understood each other, Edwige and he, yet they always agreed.

Each interpreted the other's words in his or her own way, and there was wonderful harmony between them. Wonderful solidarity based on lack of understanding. In reality, Boccacio is the name of a famous medieval Italian poet who wrote popular, funny stories.

Kundera uses this name to characterize the Czech writer's literature. The Children The Children on the island are nameless and largely featureless. They exist as a group, and as a group, they brutalize Tamina.

Kundera uses them to represent the mass mentality of the Communist state. Indeed, the scenes on the island are reminiscent of the camps to which children in Communist countries were sent to be indoctrinated. Edwige Edwige is a young woman having an affair with Jan in Part Seven.

She functions as an illustration of companionship based on misunderstanding, ignorance, or meaninglessness. Eva Eva appears in Part Two. Eva is a young woman who has had an affair with a married man, Karel.

Karel arranges for Eva to meet his wife, Marketa. The women become very close friends and decide to have sex with Karel at the same time. Eva ultimately asks Marketa to visit her house, presumably for sex with her and with her husband, but Eva actually intends to sleep with Marketa alone.

Gabrielle Gabrielle is a young American girl studying in Europe with her friend Michelle. She appears in Part Three, and she serves as an illustration of ignorance and also as a means to segue into a discussion of angelic and demonic laughter. Hugo Hugo is a young writer who is infatuated with Tamina. He has sour breath, and is very unappealing to Tamina, although he thinks highly of himself.

After Tamina goes to bed with him on the understanding that he will retrieve her lost notebooks for her by going to Prague, he breaks his word, saying that it would be too dangerous for him to do so. Jan Jan is the protagonist of the final section of the book. He is a forty-five year old man who is suffering from a perceived meaninglessness in his life. He has had many affairs, but believes that a new chapter of his life has opened after he begins an affair with Edwige.

His friends invite him to orgies, which he attends, and he visits a nude beach with Edwige. At the beach, he realizes that the reason he and Edwige get along so well is that they generally misunderstand each other. This scene, and these characters, reveal Kundera's notion that people can never really know each other. Karel Karel appears in Part Two. Karel is married to Marketa, and has affairs with several women.

His mother is a widow and she has come for a visit at an awkward time. Indeed, Karel, Eva, and Marketa had planned to sleep together during her visit. At the end of Part Two, both he and his wife find their feelings toward his mother to be warmer than they had been earlier.

Kristyna Kristyna's story is related in Part Five of the novel. She is a young, married woman who lives in a small town, and she works in her husband's butcher shop. She meets a student who is traveling through the town and begins to meet him secretly.

They agree that she should come to Prague to visit him once he returns there. Kristyna does so, but does not permit the student to have sex with her as he had hoped. Milan Kundera While it might seem strange to list the author of The Book of Laughter and Forgetting as one of the characters in the book, he is perhaps the most important character in the novel. Kundera frequently interrupts his stories to speak directly to the reader.

Throughout the novel, Kundera gives his personal opinions on history, philosophy, and human nature. While one would usually ascribe these functions to a generic narrator, the autobiographical details related in the book make this distinction somewhat unnecessary. Furthermore, aside from these autobiographical details, Kundera inserts stories where he plays a major role. This intrusive narrator becomes the reader's guide throughout The Book of Laughter and Forgetting and all of the stories in the novel are filtered through his interpretations of them.

Lermentov Lermentov is the name Kundera gives to a famous poet appearing in Part Five. Historically, Lermentov was a Russian writer and Kundera uses his name to comment on the work by his character.

Mama Mama is Karel's mother. She appears only in Part Two. At a key moment in this section, she clearly remembers an event from her past, but she cannot accurately remember when the event took place. In addition, she walks in on Marketa, Karel, and Eva as they are beginning their threesome. Marketa Marketa is married to Karel. She has overlooked her husband's womanizing in the past, but finds it increasingly difficult.

She has never liked her mother-in-law, although she has softened toward her. During the story, Marketa finds herself falling in love with her friend Eva, who is also Karel's mistress.

Michelle Michelle is a young American girl studying in Europe for the summer. She appears in Part Three. Like her cohort, Gabrielle, she serves as an illustration of ignorance and also as a means to segue into a discussion of angelic and demonic laughter. Mirek Mirek is a middle-aged man who, although well educated, has been assigned by the government to work as the foreman of a construction crew.

He keeps records about his daily life and conversations, and becomes obsessed with recovering the letters he sent to a former lover whom he now considers to be ugly. While he is attempting to recover the letters he sent to her, the police raid his apartment and take his private papers. Within these papers Mirek has incriminated his friends and family and all of them are sentenced to prison.

In actuality, Petrarch is the name of the Italian Renaissance poet who first developed the sonnet. Petrarch's ideas about love were highly stylized. Kundera uses this name to comment on the work of his character, the Czech poet. The three women together bear the names of the primary archangels in the Bible. This is noteworthy because Kundera later discusses the difference between angelic and demonic laughter in Part Three of the book.

In many ways, she is a stand in for Kundera himself: she is an exile, she is deeply concerned about the power of memories and the pain of forgetting, and she understands the power of language to both preserve and destroy the past. She is its principal character and its principal audience, and all the other stories are variations on her own story and meet with her life as in a mirror. Her husband then dies again, this occurs before the story opens , and she finds herself alone, working as a waitress and trying to recover her memories of her husband.

Tamina believes that she would have a clearer memory of him if she could recover the notebooks in which she detailed her eleven years of marriage. At the end of Part Four, Tamina has given everything she has, even her own celibacy, to try to recover the notebooks, but she is unsuccessful. Later, Tamina finds herself on an island inhabited by children who have no memories of the past. She is sexually abused by the children, and when she tries to escape, she drowns.

Voltaire Voltaire is the name Kundera gives to a famous university lecturer in Prague. In reality, Voltaire was a famous French writer known for his satire. The Young Student The student is a young man who meets Kristyna while vacationing in her small country town. He invites her to Prague, imagining that they will have an affair.

When she arrives, he discovers that she is more unsophisticated and less lovely than he remembered, and he is embarrassed to be seen with her. He also wants to attend a meeting of writers on the same evening that Kristyna is in town, so he leaves her at his apartment while he goes to the meeting.

When he returns, he discovers that she will not have sex with him, and he is very disappointed. He discovers the next day that it is not because she wants to preserve some romantic notion of their night together, devoid of sex, but rather that she is fearful of becoming pregnant. According to Kundera, the student is the embodiment of litost. Zdena Zdena is a woman with a large nose with whom Mirek had an affair some twenty-five years before the story opens. She possesses Mirek's love letters and refuses to part with them.

Although Mirek suspects that she is in collusion with the secret police , she actually loves Mirek and wants to protect him. Add lines taken from The Book of Laughter and Forgetting that are appropriate to the events described in your timeline. Research Franz Kafka 's life and read his book The Trial. In what ways does Kafka's novel predict the circumstances in Czechoslovakia under Communist rule? In what ways is Kafka an important influence on Kundera?

Write an essay discussing your findings. Read George Orwell 's Lead a class discussion comparing and contrasting Orwell's and Kundera's ideas about state censorship and public memory. Listen to a symphony by Ludwig von Beethoven, and try to identify major themes and variations. Read several analyses of the symphony to better understand the idea of themes and variations. Now use this knowledge to write an essay about the structure of The Book of Laughter and Forgetting.

How does Kundera use the ideas of themes and variations in his novel? Kundera is particularly interested in exploring how memories are created, then changed over time.

In extreme circumstances, such as in the opening segment where a Communist leader is ultimately airbrushed out of Czechoslovakian history, memories can be totally erased. In his preoccupation with the state's intrusion into private memories, Kundera's work recalls George Orwell 's In Orwell's vision of the totalitarian state, public memory is controlled through bureaucrats such as Winston Smith, whose job it is to comb public records and change them according to the most recent edict from the rulers.

Thus, someone who has fallen out of favor with the ruling party also falls out of institutional, political, and ultimately, private memory. Like Orwell, Kundera finds state censorship abhorrent, akin to a form of mind control. Kundera's character Tamina demonstrates yet another facet of memory. In exile in Western Europe , the widowed Tamina finds herself unable to recall all of the details of her life with her late husband.

Earlier in her marriage, she wrote down day-to-day events in a series of notebooks she left behind when the couple left Czechoslovakia.

Now, with her memories fading, and a part of her own self fading with them, she desperately wants to recover the lost notebooks. Tamina has sacrificed the memory of her sexual life with her husband by having sex with a man who has offered to recover her notebooks for her. Ironically, it is her attempt to recover her memories that ultimately destroys them. Later, she enters a strange dream-like section where a young man promises to take her to a place where she will even forget forgetting.

The Idyll An idyll is an extremely happy, peaceful, or picturesque episode or scene, typically an idealized or unsustainable one. For example, many people recall their childhoods as idylls. Often, people believe that the world was a kinder place when they were young. However, this idealization usually covers over some real unhappiness. Kundera uses the notion of idyll throughout The Book of Laughter and Forgetting.

Many of the passages and many of the characters long for an Edenic past, a time such as that in which Adam and Eve enjoyed paradise in the Garden of Eden. That is, what one person might define as idyllic is not necessarily what another person would find idyllic.

In Kundera's book, each of the characters define the idyll according to their own histories and their own circumstances.

In the case of Jan and Edwige, as Ricard points out, their idylls are diametrically opposed to each other, leading to their mutual incomprehension of one another.

Kundera uses these two characters to illustrate that individual conceptions of Paradise serve to undermine mutual understanding between people. For Kundera, one idyll is that of innocence. This idyllic state is represented by the children's island. The children have no memory and exist fully in the present moment. Theirs is a life of unity, conformity, and innocence derived from their lack of memory.

For Kundera, it is this lack and this conformity that allows them to commit torture and abuse without guilt. In the novel, Kundera also recalls the early days of the Communist movement as idyllic, a time when he, too, danced in the circle with other Party members before the idyll shattered into totalitarianism.

Opposed to the idyll of innocence is the idyll of experience. Kundera longs for the days when he was part of an innocent idyll as a young member of the Communist party. He is no longer able to be a part of this circle, however. His experience has destroyed his innocence.

Although he has found some measure of peace, it is as a critic and a loner, not as a supportive member of a group. Like most of Kundera's ideas and themes, the oppositions between innocence and experience clash against one another.

Narration in a novel is simply the manner in which the story is told. The narrator is, likewise, simply the voice that tells the story. An author can choose how noticeable or invisible he or she wishes the narrator to be. Sometimes a writer will choose to make a first person narrator a part of the story itself. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby is an example of this; the narrator Nick Carraway both tells the story and participates in it. There is no separation between the narrator and the fiction itself.

In The Book of Laughter and Forgetting, however, Kundera plays a game with the notion of narration by creating a narrator who is named Milan Kundera. As critic John O'Brien writes in Critique: "Kundera weaves an author-figure into his texts with stark autobiographical intrusions.

But can the reader make the assumption that the narrative voice in The Book of Laughter and Forgetting is actually Kundera the author and not Kundera the character? The answer is probably not.

Because the narrator speaks as if he is the author of the text, and because he speaks of the other characters in the book as characters, the narrator somehow seems more real. This is, however, an illusion, a deliberate blurring by Kundera the writer of the boundaries between fact and fiction.

Indeed, when one considers this book carefully, it becomes evident that the narrator is the most important character in the book. He intrudes regularly in the storyline; he calls attention to parts of the story as fiction, and to other parts as history. He offers up bits of autobiography and quotes other writers. It is the narrator who appears to organize the order of events, the construction of the chapters, and the major themes and ideas. Nevertheless, that narrator is a creation, as much as Tamina is a creation.

Setting The setting of The Book of Laughter and Forgetting is so important to the novel that it might as well be another character in the story. Indeed, after the narrator, the setting is the most important stylistic device in the book. The novel is largely about the country of Czechoslovakia; even those segments of the book that take place elsewhere always concern someone who is exiled from Czechoslovakia, someone who wants to return to Czechoslovakia, or someone who cannot leave Czechoslovakia.

Oddly, Kundera generally does not refer to the setting as Czechoslovakia, but prefers to call his homeland Bohemia an older, and more mythical, name that was once used to refer to the region. Nevertheless, the historical events that Kundera recounts belong to the actual history of Czechoslovakia.

While he travels to her home and back, he is followed by two men. Mirek is arrested at his home and sentenced to jail for six years, his son to two years, and ten or so of his friends to terms of from one to six years. Marketa invites her mother-in-law to visit her and Karel's home after her mother did nothing but complain.

Inviting her to stay for a week — although contending that she must leave Saturday because they had somewhere to be on Sunday — the mother forces her way to stay until Monday. On Sunday morning, Eva — a friend of Karel and Marketa — arrives and is introduced to the mother as Marketa's cousin. Through narration the reader is told that Eva had met and made love to Karel, who then arranged for Eva and Marketa to meet. Through Marketa's suggestion, the three have conducted a sexual relationship over the years.

Mother almost catches the three in the act, but instead realizes that Eva reminds her of a friend of hers from Karel's infancy. This makes Karel even more attracted to Eva, and after the mother leaves, they continue with renewed vigour. This section concerns events after the Russians occupied Czechoslovakia in , especially Kundera's attempts to write a horoscope under an associate's name.

His boss — who has studied Marxism—Leninism for half of his life — requests a private horoscope, which Kundera extends to ten pages, providing a template for the man to change his life. Eventually, Kundera's associate — code named R. Kundera also describes 'circle dancing' wherein the joy and laughter build up to the point that the people's steps take them soaring into the sky with the laughing angels. Tamina, a woman who works in a cafe, wants to retrieve her love letters and diaries in Prague through her customer who will be going to Prague, Bibi.

Also, another customer, Hugo, who lusts for Tamina, offers to help her if Bibi cannot go to Prague. One day, Hugo invites Tamina to dinner and they visited the zoo together. A group of ostriches move their mute mouths vigorously to Hugo and Tamina as if to warn them of something, which gives Tamina a bad feeling about the letters and diaries in Prague. As these items, which Tamina describes as packed in a parcel, are in her mother-in-law's, she phoned her father to take it from her mother-in-law, so it will be easier for Bibi to get them.

After a lot of pleas, her father agreed to send Tamina's brother to take them. It turns out that the items are not packed in a parcel, and Tamina fears that her private letters and diaries are read by others. The situation turns worse as Bibi gets fed up with her husband and refuses to go anywhere with him, which means the trip to Prague is cancelled.

Hugo offers to help and once again invites Tamina to his house. Hugo tries desperately to win her heart. Tamina later has sex with Hugo, but cannot keep her mind off her deceased husband. Hugo senses her uneasiness but he still finishes the act. Again, Hugo chats with Tamina and tries saying things that please her. However, Tamina is not interested in his talk but only in Hugo's trip to Prague.

Hugo gradually knows that and his speech gets weaker and he starts to get angry. Tamina is increasingly disgusted by his talk and eventually vomits in the toilet. Hugo knows that she has absolutely no interest in him and refuses to help her. In the end, the letters and diaries remain in Prague. It starts with introducing Kristyna, who develops a romantic relationship with a student studying philosophy and poetry.

Then, it explains the Czech word litost , which the author says cannot be accurately translated into any other language. Litost is, according to Kundera, "a state of torment created by the sudden sight of one's own misery.

His professor, nicknamed Voltaire, invites the student to an evening gathering of the great poets of the country. However, the student has a date with Kristyna that night and refuses to go to the gathering.

He then meets Kristyna on the day the gathering is held. He is surprised to find her tacky, gaudy and simplistic in the city setting and decides to go to the meeting.

The Book of Laughter and Forgetting

He tells her about it and she is fascinated by it and wants the student to go there so as not to miss the chance. The student agrees and goes to the meeting. He meets the great poets and listens to their arguments and insults to each other.

Through this he learns a lot of things.

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