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Paperback The Book of Laughter and Forgetting: Revised Edition Book

ISBN: 0140096930

ISBN13: 9780140096934

The Book of Laughter and Forgetting: Revised Edition

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Book Overview

The only authorized translation of the bestselling masterpiece by one of the greatest authors of our time, "The Book of Laughter and Forgetting" is part fairy tale, part literary criticism, part political tract, part musicology, and part autobiography.

Customer Reviews

5 ratings

Life- Changing! Read it young!

This book totally blew my mind when I first read it, maybe more than any other book since. Kundera has a way of looking at the world that is totally unique and pretty enlightening, and although I didn't understand everything he said at the time, I feel like his sharing that view with readers is an incredible gift. None of his other books grasp it quite as completely (although several other people I've talked to also say that the first one of his they read was the best, whatever it was). Read it, read it young, and let its ideas float around in your mind forever- you'll be a more complex thinker, I guarantee it. (I'm not sure how much my guarantee means to you, but it means a lot to me)

Beautiful philosophical - historical - sexual meditation

Like Rushdie's Satanic Verses, this book is largely about angels and devils, or good and evil. The setting is (mostly) Prague around 1970, and the basic political themes -- Czech and Russian Communists and their adversaries -- are used as a foundation for the more ethereal, philosophical themes, such as the nature of humor, the nature of history, and the differences between the genders.Kundera's frequent personal anecdotes told in the midst of the novel can be quite disconcerting -- and there's a parody of this book floating around the web that makes light of Kundera's self-indulgent practice of using his books as personal therapy sessions. But the anecdotes are still interesting, and since Prague around 1970 is such a big part of Kundera's own mental and cultural ethos, well, why not? Anyone who is familiar with the dark, fatalistic jokes whispered in Communist Eastern Europe in the Olden Days will enjoy the steady stream of such humor in this novel. Kundera is a masterful joketeller. There is also a lot of bawdy sexual humor, fairly standard, but that is not nearly as interesting as the joke about the man vomiting in Prague's central square (I don't want to spoil the joke here, so you'll just have to read it in the book).Kundera's attitudes toward women are for the most part repugnant -- but that's Kundera for ya. The contemporary American reader will wince when Kundera describes the beauty of rape, etc. This is just fair warning that some of the attitudes in this book may make you angry, as they made me angry; but we can't change Kundera. At least, unlike the other Kundera I've read, this novel is only partly -- not entirely -- about sex and seduction.Overall, this is a combination of a brilliant reflection on history and philosophy, a warm-hearted story about dissidents in Prague, and some amusing autobiographical notes on Kundera. I found it more satisfying than Unbearable Lightness of Being, and can compare it (but only distantly) to the novels of Gunter Grass, which also discuss major political-historical events and the burden of a historical conscience, but focusing on the characters' personal lives, not hitting the reader over the head with grand historico-political lessons.

I hope someone will read this.

In this somewhat somber farce of a novel, Kundera seems to capture the essence of the plight of modern life. In seven integrated parts, Kundera takes us through a whirlwind of emotions as the lives of the characters are often mirrored in some Kundera contorted fashion to one's own life. Kundera writes sometimes in a shocking and unabashfed way, which can make one gasp, shudder, and laugh all at the same time. And throughout the novel there is the recurring theme as to how does a person live today within complexities of relationships, careers, politics, ect., without being crushed by their weight or letting themselves be fluttered away into meaninglessnes. And although Kundera writes in an ambiguous way, he carries us to that borderline at which one can live within the extremes, and he carries one there on the coattails of not only laughter and forgetting but also at the same time with solemnity and remembering.

One of Kundera's best

One of the things that is interesting about Kundera's works is how he often ties different stories and different narrators in together, and combines stories that flow in and out in different directions (like Unbearable Lightness, perhaps his most famous, which combines two couples). This book has many stories which flow together with varied narration, and in a few of them, the narrator rises out of the page to tell his own stories. Kundera is undoubtedly a post-modernist, but there is something fascinatingly easy to read about all of his stories. It's clear from reading this how he loves and obsesses about his characters. This book is a fantastic read that really makes you think a lot about the relations between men and women, and also about life in a (former) Soviet controlled country. I think in America we feel very removed from what went on in Eastern Europe, but much of Kundera's writing based on the horrors he experienced bring you in touch with that world.

Astonishingly Wonderful; A Must-Read

THE BOOK OF LAUGHTER AND FORGETTING is a rare and precious jewel. In many ways this is an experimental novel, the seven different parts of the book are compared by the author to Beethoven's variations upon a musical theme. These different variations either describe, converge upon, or dance around the story of Tamina, a Czech exile who ran away from the communists with her husband only to see him die of disease soon afterward. As time passes she becomes obsessed with the mortal fear that she will forget him. She cannot go back to her homeland but she can try to get her husband's love letters back, to bring some of his laughter back into her life, to remind her that she is not alone.Tamina's homeland meanwhile, still languishes and suffers under the boot of the Soviet Union. The intellectuals who were so excited about communism in the late 1940s can't believe how wrong it goes over the next twenty years and try to correct their mistake. But the Soviets will have none of their "stalking a lost deed" as Kundera calls it--just as the Czechs are succeeding in relaxing the strictures of totalitarianism, in storm the Soviet tanks in 1968, ending the "Prague Spring" and delaying freedom in Eastern Europe for another twenty-one years. Published in 1978, three years after Kundera escaped the Iron Curtain and set down new roots in France, this book is also an important historical document. (I actually read it for the first time as an assignment for a 20th Century European history class in college in 1991--I'm still grateful to the professor.) It is important because it warns us of the insidious dangers of "forgetting." One of the first things the communists did after crushing the Prague Spring was to fire some one hundred forty-five Czech historians from the universities in an attempt to erase the memory of the people. It is frightening how well they might have succeeded if the Soviet economy had stayed strong for another generation or two. THE BOOK OF LAUGHTER AND FORGETTING is touching and erotic, a moving and inspired intellectual feat. It is not humorous, but if you are open to the experience, it will inspire "serious laughter, laughter beyond joking." Kundera has a gentle, straightforward style that evokes rich and vivid images (at least as translated by Michael Henry Heim--I look forward to reading Aaron Asher's in the future). For anyone who has loved, for anyone who has a memory, for anyone who appreciates the freedom we have in this society, THE BOOK OF LAUGHTER AND FORGETTING is a must.
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