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The Book of Laughter and Forgetting: A Novel

The Book of Laughter and Forgetting: A Novel

Written by Milan Kundera

Narrated by Richmond Hoxie


The Book of Laughter and Forgetting: A Novel

Written by Milan Kundera

Narrated by Richmond Hoxie

ratings:
3/5 (1,186 ratings)
Length:
8 hours
Publisher:
Released:
May 15, 2012
ISBN:
9780062215536
Format:
Audiobook

Description

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 integrated parts, different aspects of human existence are magnified and reduced, reordered and emphasized, newly examined, analyzed, and experienced.

Publisher:
Released:
May 15, 2012
ISBN:
9780062215536
Format:
Audiobook

About the author



Reviews

What people think about The Book of Laughter and Forgetting

3.0
1186 ratings / 32 Reviews
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Reader reviews

  • (3/5)
    My rating is questionable. I am afraid that Kundera's characters and situations have shifted into an melange of protest; one which remains indistinct in my ability to appreciate and discern.
  • (3/5)
    Some beautiful, moving prose here, and some intense commentary pertaining to the cultural moment from which it emerged. In the end, though, I could not reconcile myself to the violence done to women in this novel--both the graphic sort and the "passive" sort, by which I mean the violence of squashing women into flat, objectified characters. I don't believe in giving a book a pass on this kind of thing just because it's old.
  • (4/5)
    Towards the end of Milan Kundera's THE BOOK OF LAUGHTER AND FORGETTING the narrator steps in to explain that the book has been constructed based on the model of musical variations, that is to say, repetition of larger themes with slight changes in the presentation. The themes of memory, death, the body and our relationship with it, occur in different shapes and forms throughout the book's seven sections, and the effect is entertaining although not exactly mind-blowing.Kundera isn't the first one to write a musical novel, nor the best at it (hello Monsieur Proust), but his style is compelling enough to entice literary enthusiasts and acolytes alike. What strikes me the most about the emphasis on variations is not how, from one person to the next, we share experiences that have the same meaning, but instead how singular events within an individual's life express the same meaning. So, yes, Tamina and maybe Jan will both express a theme, but perhaps more importantly, two distinct events in Jan's life will express the same theme. I don't know. I'm searching for the words here.I guess what I mean is that I always figured that there were other people out there who, even though they are completely different from me, share elements of my consciousness. But what THE BOOK OF LAUGHTER AND FORGETTING really taught me - not directly, but upon reflection - is how much I am myself, over and over again, but in new variations of the original. Maybe this is trite, obvious, but it could boost my self-awareness w/r/t the episodes that comprise my life.I'm rambling here. This isn't much of a review at all, so I'll try to boil it down to a few sentences here at the end. This is classic Milan Kundera. He writes about people, philosophy, psychology, history, and politics. And sex. Whoa whoa whoa the sex. It's uninhibited, that's for sure. It's not smut, although the are orgies, because he uses sex scenes to elucidate a deeper point, powerfully. If you've never read Kundera before, I'd recommend THE UNBEARABLE LIGHTNESS OF BEING over this, but you can't go wrong with either one. I can't imagine someone plowing through his entire oeuvre because I get the sense that the books are largely similar. Anyways, I'm rambling again. So just check it out. Or don't. Simple but beautiful literary fiction.
  • (3/5)
    I really enjoyed this book. I want to read it again from the beginning and take down all the really deep, insightful quotes. It's a sad book, and very, very sexually strange. Not what I would usually go for but the Book Club was reading it. I feel like I broadened my literary horizon by reading this.
  • (4/5)
    I remember that I laughed, but I've forgotten everything else.
  • (3/5)
    This is not a book that really lends itself to summarization, so I'm not going to even try (Yoda would be disappointed otherwise, and you don't want to disappoint Yoda). The best explanation of the book comes from within its own pages:

    "This entire book is a novel in the form of variations. The individual parts follow each other like individual stretches of a journey leading toward a theme, a thought, a single situation, the sense of which fades into the distance.
    It is a novel about Tamina, and whenever Tamina is absent, it is a novel for Tamina. She is its main character and main audience, and all the other stories are variations on her story and come together in her life as a mirror.
    It is a novel about laughter and forgetting, about forgetting and Prague, about Prague and angels." (165-6)

    This really does convey what The Book of Laughter and Forgetting is like. The book is composed of a series of vignettes, some obviously related to one another and others, so far as I can tell, coming out of left field. The composition of the novel is similar to the one other Kundera book I have read, The Unbearable Lightness of Being. Both are told in brief snippets and focus as much (actually more) as philosophy as on characters.

    The difference lies in the fact that The Unbearable Lightness of Being had a clearly defined cast, setting and plot. The Book of Laughter and Forgetting does not have any such clear cut framework. In fact, his description that the parts follow one another towards a theme, only to have sense fade into the distance, perfectly captures my experience reading this novel. Any time I started getting really interested in a particular character, journey, philosophical idea, etc, or even just started to think I knew what he was getting at, the story would inevitably leap to something else entirely, leaving me more confused and irritated than before.

    He also does some weird postmodern, breaking the fourth wall stuff that really was not working for me. I have never been a huge fan of novelists including themselves as a character in their works (name and all), and this was one of those times where it did not work for me. Another thing that bothered me was the weird metaphor where death was like childhood, which also involved children raping an adult woman. That was weird and creepy, and didn't really quite work as a metaphor. And, sadly, it's not the only rape scene in the book.

    Sometimes, I could tell that Kundera was getting close to something interesting here, but I don't feel like he made it. There is definitely a reason why The Unbearable Lightness of Being is the more well-known work. I would recommend reading that one first.