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 success in the late 1970s. Like all his work, it is valuable for far more than its historical implications. In seven wonderfully... read more
It is a novel on several contradicting yet connected human reactions to love, sex, forgetfulness, nostalgic attraction for haunting memories and a negation of one's own feelings over a period of time, over a distance in place and virtual indulgence. It would be very much necessary, like most... read more (warning: may contain spoilers)
It is a novel on several contradicting yet connected human reactions to love, sex, forgetfulness, nostalgic attraction for haunting memories and a negation of one's own feelings over a period of time, over a distance in place and virtual indulgence. It would be very much necessary, like most of Milan Kundera's novels to re-read and sum up what exactly are the key questions or issues Kundera is raising while wondering himself about the mysteries a life can hide within. Kundera is arranging here a series of stories seemingly different but still which are all connected in one or the other way so that the reader can understand life by bridging a connection between them and then by isolating the same. Ofcourse it is complex as life itself is. Still it has some rare insights and truths about human ways of human relations!
“That conversation with the taxi driver suddenly made clear to me the essence of the writer's occupation. We write books because our children aren't interested in us. We address ourselves to an anonymous world because our wives plug their ears when we speak to them.”The narrator of Part Four
“The carpenter is the hammer's master, yet it is the hammer that has the advantage over the carpenter, because a tool knows exactly how it should be handled, while the one who handles it can only know approximately how.”Narrator
“........because to understand is to merge and to identify with. That is the secret of poetry. We consume ourselves in the beloved woman, we consume ourselves in the idea we believe, we burn in the landscape we are moved by."”Petrarch(imaginary)
“"Laughter, on the other hand," Petrarch went on, "is an explosion that tears us away from the world and throws us back into our own cold solitude. Joking is a barrier between men and the world. Joking is the enemy of love and poetry. that's why I tell you yet again, and want you to keep in mind: boccaccio doesn't understand love. Love can never be laughable. Love has nothing in common with laughter."”Petrarch(imaginary)
“Pascal says that man lives between the abyss of the infinitely large and the abyss of the infinitely small. The voyage of variations leads into that other infinitude, into the infinite diversity of the interior world lying hidden in all things. Beethoven thus discovered in variations another area to be explored. His variations are a new `invitation to the voyage.'Variation form is the form in which concentration is brought to its maximum; it enables the composer to speak only of essentials, to go straight to the core of the matter. A theme for variations often consists of no more than sixteen measures. Beethoven goes inside those sixteen measures as if down a shaft leading into the interior of the earth.The voyage into that other infinitude is no less adventurous than the voyage of the epic. It is how the physicist penetrates into the wondrous depths of the atom. With every variation Beethoven moves farther and farther away from the initial theme, which resembles the last variation as little as a flower its image under a microscope.Man knows he cannot embrace the universe with its suns and stars. Much more unbearable is for him to be condemned to lack the other infinitude, that infinitude near at hand, within reach. Tamina lacked the infinitude of her love, I lacked Papa, and all of us are lacking in our work because in pursuit of perfection we go toward the core of the matter but never quite get to it. That the infinitude of the exterior world escapes us we accept as natural. But we reproach ourselves until the end of our lives for lacking that other infinitude. We ponder the infinitude of the stars but are unconcerned about the infinitude our papa has within him.It is not surprising that in his later years variations became the favorite form for Beethoven, who knew all too well (as Tamina and I know) that there is nothing more unbearable than lacking the being we loved, those sixteen measures and the interior world of their infinitude of possibilities.”Narrator
“He loved her as an intelligent, faithful, irreplaceable friend, not as a mistress. But it was impossible to separate mistress from friend.”Jan
“Jan said to himself: At the beginning of one's erotic life, there is arousal without climax, and at the end there is climax without arousal.”Jan
“The woman he had loved most (he was thirty at the time) would tell him (he was nearly in despair when he heard it) that she held on to life by a thread. Yes, she did want to live, life gave her great joy, but she also knew that her "I want to live" was spun from the threads of a spiderweb. It takes so little, so infinitely little, for someone to find himself on the other side of the border, where everything - love, convictions, faith, history - no longer has meaning. The whole mystery of human life resides in the fact that it is spent in the immediate proximity of, and even in direct contact with, that border, that it is separated from it not by kilometers but by barely a millimeter.”Jan
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