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Author who writes for a living and lives for writing. // WOMB: a novel in utero (Merge Publishing 2017) // TRACKS: A Novel in Stories (Atticus Books 2011) // FLIGHTLESS GOOSE, a storybook for children (Writers Lair Books 2008) // www.EricDGoodman.com

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

This Book May Make You Forget To Laugh

Regarded by the world as one of the greatest Czech writers, Milan Kundera now lives in Paris but still writes about his homeland.

The Unbearable Lightness of Being is probably his most known work. Told in seven parts, it interweaves the stories of several characters and, more importantly, themes, ideas, and philosophies.

In Slowness, his first novel originally written in French, Kundera examines the lives of two sets of lovers in the same chateaux, separated by eras but not all that different.

But my favorite of the Kundera novels I’ve read so far is the one that put him on the map of literary success in the 1970’s: The Book of Laughter and Forgetting.

In Laughter and Forgetting, Kundera uses his unique style to examine the ideas of memory and forgetting, of routine and newness. Although he claims within the novel that the book is the story of one main character—Tamina—the novel is made up of seven separate sections, each one delving into another person’s story, although all of the stories mirror or accentuate Tamina’s. The book opens and closes with the stories of different characters, with different themes, and yet they belong to Tamina. Kundera smoothly weaves his own narrative, stories from his own life and experience, his own opinions and even his writing of this book, and it works seamlessly. His short chapters of a few pages each make it easy to enter and exit the minds of the characters, and yet they fit together like pieces of a puzzle. One gets the impression that you could throw the chapters up like a deck of cards, stack them in any order, and The Book of Laughter and Forgetting would still work.

The Book of Laughter and Forgetting offered a number of “aha moments,” eye-openers that got me to thinking about new things, or considering old ideas in a new way. It is a book I won’t soon forget.


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