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.

Milan Kundera The Book Of Laughter And Forgetting

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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.

Tamina is not into him at all, especially because she's still focused on the past and the memory of her husband. But Hugo has a phone, and Tamina needs it to call back home and arrange the pickup of her notebooks. She succumbs to his advances. Tamina is crushed when she learns that Bibi isn't going to Prague after all and can't pick up the notebooks. She'll have to rely on Hugo to do it—but that means she'll have to pay a pretty steep price.

Hugo has sex with her while she tries to think of other things.

But with that toll paid, she learns that Hugo, too, can't make the trip to Prague; he has published a controversial article against the Czech government, and they won't let him in. Tamina is in greater distress than ever because her memory of her husband's body has now been replaced by repulsive Hugo's body.

And with no prospect of getting her notes back, she despairs of ever refreshing her memories. Kristyna is a butcher's wife who's had several affairs with local men, but they are nothing like the relationship she strikes up with a young student one summer. She really likes his fancy talk about Schopenhauer, but she can't give in to his sexual advances she needs to use contraceptives and doesn't know how to break it to him , much to his frustration.

He invites her to visit him in Prague. Kundera breaks in to describe the untranslatable Czech word litost , which is "a state of torment created by the sudden sight of one's own misery" V.

Kundera uses two incidents in the student's life to illustrate exactly how litost works. It turns out that he's one miserable guy. Back in Prague, the student has been invited by his professor, Voltaire, to join a meeting of the country's greatest poets.

But Kristyna is due in town that same evening, and the student sadly has to decline. When Kristyna arrives, he's miserable: He gave up his night with great poets for that?

He strikes a bargain with Kristyna—he'll get Goethe to sign her book if she'll let him go—and he heads to the bar. Petrarch tells a ridiculous story about a crazy female student who was in love with him. Lermontov isn't downloading it at all and winds up becoming the target of the other poets' anger.

The student stands up for Lermontov in an impressive way and earns the admiration of the room. The student tells Goethe about his disappointment with Kristyna, but the old poet tells him that a girl like that is just what a poet needs. He writes a beautiful inscription in Kristyna's book, and the student finds his desire for her resited.

But when he goes back to his room, he finds that Kristyna still won't have sex with him. She says something about how it will "kill her. In the morning, the student is still sexually frustrated when Kristyna finally clarifies her statement. The student has a serious attack of litost and goes back to the bar to seek out his poet friends for solace.

He brings along Kristyna's love letter from the night before, and Petrarch sees it. He declares it to be pure poetry and dubs the student a true poet for inspiring such a love. When Lermontov arrives, the student snubs him because he realizes that he doesn't like Lermontov's straightforward approach to love.

He really wants to be romantic and "inspired," like Petrarch and Goethe. Kundera brings Franz Kafka into his discussion of Czechoslovakia, specifically Kafka's vision of a nameless country with no identity and that sense of disorientation that comes from memory loss in Kafka's work. It's a major issue in Communist Czechoslovakia since the regime is all about erasing people and events that don't fit with their "idyll.

Kundera recalls his father's last days, when his mind remained sharp but he'd lost the ability to speak. Papa could only say, "That's strange," and this seems to sum up the whole situation in Kundera's country. Both are suffering from a kind of amnesia, a loss of memory that dissolves identity. And on that note, we're back to Tamina. After the whole icky incident with Hugo, she withdraws from everyone around her.

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

He seems to read her thoughts, and he convinces her to go away with him. Unfortunately for Tamina, Raphael is about to give her what she wants: Raphael sends Tamina on a boat trip across a lake to a little island occupied by children.

Tamina is assigned, as if she were at camp, to be part of a group called the Squirrels. She has to participate in the children's games, sleep in the dorm-style cabin, and—weirdest of all—participate in the children's washing and toilet rituals. Soon things take an even more bizarre turn: Tamina can tell that the kids are aroused by her naked body. And that arousal is catching. She allows the kids to touch her body, and she feels great pleasure from it because she's able to be weightless this way and leave her past behind her—until one of the kids hurts her.

Tamina stops the sexual games with the children, and they don't take it too kindly. Pretty soon, things go downhill. Tamina doesn't want to play their games anymore; they take to attacking her. Tamina tries to fight back, and she finds herself caught in their nets. Eventually, she realizes that she'll have to make a run for it, or she'll have to spend eternity with these little brats.

She decides to swim back to her old life, but after a full day of swimming with no progress, she realizes there's only one way out.

She lets herself sink while the children watch. Jan and Edwige are not exactly a couple, but they've been together for a while.

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So Kundera is an Adam driven from Eden again and again--first, from the socialist idyll of his youthful imagining, then from the national attempt to reclaim that idyll in the brief "Prague Spring" of , and then from the Russian-dominated land itself, and lastly from the bare rolls of citizenship.

Such a profound and jagged fall makes the life histories of most American writers look as stolid as the progress of a tomato plant, and it is small wonder that Kundera is able to merge personal and political significances with the ease of a Camus. For instance, the theme of forgetting is masterfully, effortlessly ubiquitous. On the official level, erasure achieves comic effects.

The comrade named Clementis who solicitously placed his own cap upon Klement Gottwald's head on the cold day of party annunciation in was hanged four years later, and airbrushed out of all propaganda photographs, so that "All that remains of Clementis is the cap on Gottwald's head.

The Book of Laughter and Forgetting

The expatriate native of Prague called Tamina, in the central and perhaps best of these disparate though linked chapters, recites to herself all the pet names by which her dead husband ever had called her, and, less and less able to remember his face, resorts to a desperate exercise: ". Whenever she sat across from a man, she would use his head as a kind of sculptor's armature.

She would concentrate all her attention on him and remodel his face inside her head, darkening the complexion, adding freckles and warts, scaling down the ears, and coloring the eyes blue.

But all her efforts only went to show that her husband's image had disappeared for good. She has remained loyal to their youthful orthodoxy, even to supporting the Russian invasion of But he quite misses the point of her fidelity to the party--that it is fidelity to him and their old love: "What seemed to be political fanaticism was only an excuse, a parable, a manifesto of fidelity, a coded plaint of unrequited love.

Every life is lobotomized by the severances of tyranny. Of course, there is comedy here. We were cheering him on. But the theme of laughter, as developed by Kundera in these later stories, is elaborated to the point where it can no longer be felt as laughter.

The Book of Laughter and Forgetting by Milan Kundera

He is deft and paradoxical but too heavy-hearted to be a funny writer' nor can he bring to his heavy-heartedness that touch of traditional religious resignation which converts depression to the cosmic humor of Kafka, or Bruno Schulz, or the early Malamud, or Gogol. Kundera in comparison is a child of the Enlightenment, and what mysteries exist for him occur on the plane of the psychological and the sexual.

There is more analysis of laughter--specified as "a wobbly, breathy sound in the upper reaches of [the] vocal register"--than laughter itself. A certain mechanical liveliness, as of French farce, attends the scenes of group sex: In "Mother," the hero's visiting elderly mother unwittingly blunders back into the living room where her son is about to commence entertaining his wife and another scantily clad woman at once; in "The Border," a zealous orgy hostess vigilantly enforces multiple contacts upon couples threatening to find happiness in a corner by themselves.

Sex is sad for Kundera, at bottom, and laughter is cruel.

His book's final image is of a group of doctrinaire, self-congratulatory nudists on the presumably French beach, "their naked genitals staring duly, sadly, listlessly at the yellow sand. 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.

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. He asks one of the poets, named Goethe by the author, to inscribe one of his books and then gives the book to Kristyna as a gift.

He returns to his home and finds Kristyna waiting for him. She is moved by the inscription. They do not have sex but feels each other's immense love. The student tries several times to get Kristyna to separate her two legs, but Kristyna fears that this will make her pregnant, which threatens her life.


So she keeps saying that by doing this she will die. The student misinterprets that she will die from the immense love from him if they are separated from each other for a long time.

He is deeply moved.

He soon falls asleep and wakes up next morning, finding a note in his coat from Kristyna. After thinking over their night, he realizes that he misinterpreted her statement last night.

He feels Litost but cannot take revenge for Kristyna has already left. One of the poets approaches him and fills him with glory, relieving the student's despair. Part Six: The Angels[ edit ] Returning to Tamina, the author parallels her struggles with the death of his father. She travels on a mysterious boat ride to an island where she is stranded with many children.I therefore opened Life Studies with no great expectation of pleasure, but what I found there was more than pleasure.

An examination of this text through the lens of magical realism provides insight into the genre as well as into the book itself. What holds the entire work together is the compellingly controlled voice of the narrator, a voice that remains consistent throughout the text. How many ought I to read? 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.