Saturday, 17 September 2016

The Book of Laughter and Forgetting by Milan Kundera

"It is a novel about laughter, and forgetting, about forgetting and about Prague, about Prague and about the angels."

Sometimes prose dances on the page with a kind of delicious magnificence, reminiscent of the  sense of wonder you get when you look at a work of art. This collection of stories ebbs and flows with a lyrical quality that draws you in and certainly got me thinking a lot about forgetting and the strange intricacies of everyday life.

Only the other day, a friend and I were ruminating on the strange way we forget trying times and then, when we least expect it, we remember that unpleasant events in the past really happened.The first tale is reminiscent of this, with Mirek recalling his love affair with the ugly, Zdena. His blurred recollections recalling the strange vagaries of memory.

Mama is a tale of a menage a trois relationship that is slowly revealed to the reader in the context of trying to hide it from Karel's visiting mother. There's a sense that Karel, his wife and his mistress are all compromising to the point that there lives are not really what they would like them to be. In the end Karel longs to be alone.

The seven parts of the novel had varying degrees of success for me and I enjoyed the interspersing of Czech history and place with the personal dramas. I found the children raping Tamina in part six disturbing, however my appreciation for the novel was rekindled by the final tale. 

Part seven sees nakedness abound, the final line "The man spoke, all the others listened with interest, and their bare genitals stared stupidly and sadly at the yellow sand". There is something sublime and ridiculous in that imagery.


5 out of 5 forgotten moments have a way of returning.



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