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Identity: A Novel

Identity: A Novel

Written by Milan Kundera

Narrated by Richmond Hoxie


Identity: A Novel

Written by Milan Kundera

Narrated by Richmond Hoxie

ratings:
4/5 (22 ratings)
Length:
3 hours
Publisher:
Released:
Jul 31, 2012
ISBN:
9780062215574
Format:
Audiobook

Description

There are situations in which we fail for a moment to recognize the person we are with, in which the identity of the other is erased while we simultaneously doubt our own. This also happens with couples--indeed, above all with couples, because lovers fear more than anything else "losing sight" of the loved one.

With stunning artfulness in expanding and playing variations on the meaningful moment, Milan Kundera has made this situation--and the vague sense of panic it inspires--the very fabric of his new novel. Here brevity goes hand in hand with intensity, and a moment of bewilderment marks the start of a labyrinthine journey during which the reader repeatedly crosses the border between the real and the unreal, between what occurs in the world outside and what the mind creates in its solitude.

Of all contemporary writers, only Kundera can transform such a hidden and disconcerting perception into the material for a novel, one of his finest, most painful, and most enlightening. Which, surprisingly, turns out to be a love story.

Publisher:
Released:
Jul 31, 2012
ISBN:
9780062215574
Format:
Audiobook


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What people think about Identity

3.9
22 ratings / 11 Reviews
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Reader reviews

  • (3/5)
    This small gripping novel is the story of two lovers, Jean-Marc and Chantal. It moves from one to the other, following assumptions, emotions, beliefs and ideas - some shared, but mostly held in secret. It's about being seen, and about how we see each other. Identity is not fixed but is drawn from the mirrors around us.

    One of the messages of this novel is that, in order to love, you need to be certain that you know who the other person is. Once you start to doubt your lover's identity, love is eroded. In this novel, when love starts to crumble, the lovers encounter their own secret fears. For Chantal, this means being naked, and for Jean-Marc, it means becoming a beggar. The desperation of their own fears drive them back to the safety of their relationship.

    One thread of the story concerns Jean-Marc and his friend F (who is nameless because he is rejected as a friend). Jean-Marc does not trust F any more, and withholds recognition of their shared past.

    Throughout the book, every trembling inner movement is echoed by some outer event, even if only a passing glance or a quick conversation. This gives the novel a sure rhythm.
  • (3/5)
    A very unusual book indeed, small, but thought provoking! A story about a close relationship between two lovers, but more than that, about how we see ourselves, the one we love, and who we think we know them to be. Which part is reality and which part is fantasy? Do we ever really know? Certainly worth the read!
  • (4/5)
    A short Novel from Kundera this time but still plenty to get your teeth stuck into. Always gives you someting to think about. 'Friendship is indispensable to man for the proper function of his own memory'.
  • (3/5)
    This is the story of Chantal and Jean-Marc who seem to have a beautiful relationship but then it starts to unravel over age issues, misunderstandings, miscommunciation. Or, wait. Did what happen really happen or was it just a dream of Chantal, Jean-Marc, or both? The theme is "losing sight" of the person you love most in the world, and the writing was excellent and thought-provoking, but I was somewhat put off by the bizarre ending.
  • (5/5)
    The intense love story between Chantal and Jean-Marc pulls you in slowly and has you hoping it will pull through by the end. Beautifully written and translated, a unique story capturing the passion and hurt in relationships.
  • (5/5)
    What is human identity? How can such an intangible concept be preserved, manipulated, lost, developed, and fade all during a life time? Sounds like an absurd question in today's fast-paced world where we drown ourselves in formulaic self-help books, watch an endless succession of talk-shows and other people's realities and even hire so-called "life coaches" to help us cope with our own existence. And yet, when reading Milan Kundera's "Identity", one starts to wonder that perhaps people need to have more questions to ponder, without being so needy about the answers...? The story about the two lovers, Chantal and Jean-Marc, starts out on the Normandy coast. We gradually get glimpses into their respective ponderings about their own identity. Chantal is startled to discover that "men don't look at her anymore" - a realization that causes her to explore why that is so important to her - especially since she has the most devoted lover she could wish for. Meanwhile, while visiting a dying old friend, Jean Marc discovers that his friend viewed their friendship not so much a union of two different individuals, but more like a "mirror that reflects oneself". In both instances the characters start questioning their own identity as it is perceived by others, including each other, as well as to themselves. What follows is an engaging tale about how Chantal and Jean-Marc embarks on answering these and other related questions. And finally, true to form, Kundera twists the story to focus on us - the readers. We are challenged to ponder not only the factual events of the story, but also whether we need to have all the answers instead of the more ethereal questions. If you are already a Kundera fan, I predict you will embrace this delightful novella. However, if you are reading Kundera for the first time, you might want to get aquainted with some of his earlier works first (I recommend "Life is Elsewhwere" or "The Unbearable Lightness of Being") in order to get a deeper appreciation for the unique literary tradition Kudera presents us.
  • (3/5)
    An unsettling look into how fragile relationships really are, Identity revisits themes that were much more convincingly dispatched in an earlier short story of Kundera's, "The Hitchhiking Game." By the time the reader has reached the end of this short and somewhat disappointing novel, things have spiraled so completely out of control that there is only one way to reach a tidy conclusion - be prepared to feel somewhat cheated. All in all, however, by Kundera's standard that a great novel "raises more questions than it answers," Identity is quite a work.
  • (5/5)
    I love this book because of two reasons first how the writer has confused the identities of both characters and in the last it’s not just the characters but the readers too become the part of that confusion. Secondly, the way spouse are shown to misunderstand each other seems real and fascinating.
    Rifat Raees khan
  • (4/5)
    With the intermingling of two individuals in love, identities change, and any love has an identity all in its own right. In this novel, Kunera has written the nightmare that that individual love would have, could it dream.Identity is a short compelling tale of a man and woman, in love and in panic. As powerful as it is brief, the novel begins slowly and then begs to be read in one sitting, touching simply on everything that makes a love story so fearful and surreal.Recommended.
  • (4/5)
    Warning: this review gives away the ending.There’s something intensely dissatisfying about stories that end “but it was all a dream and then she woke up.”Logically, I suppose there shouldn’t be. We accept that a story is made up, we accept that nothing is true, that it is all in effect a dream being dreamt onto the page by the author. But to have the characters dream for large parts of the book is beyond the pale. I felt cheated on reading it, as if I had wasted a few hours reading something that wasn’t true. Well, that’s a novel, dream or no dream.I think saying “and it was all a dream” is a problem because it is so reminiscent of badly written trash like ‘Dallas’, where the writers get themselves into a situation they don’t want and solve it by saying that everything after the point where the story started to get lost was a dream. It seems too easy, too much of a shortcut.That isn’t true of this novel, though. I am sure that Milan Kundera did not write himself into a dead end and think, “To hell with it, I’ll make it a dream then.” There are clear dreamlike moments from early on, for example seeing characters in odd places - a waiter from a cafe turns up in a graphologist’s office. And it’s all very well orchestrated, so that only towards the end, when Chantal goes to London and the story becomes incredibly confused and illogical, does it become clear that it’s a dream. Kundera then openly asks the reader who was dreaming and when it started.The fact that it was a dream raises certain questions, one of which is Kundera’s - who’s dreaming? The novel is narrated from two separate points of view, the lovers Chantal and Jean-Marc, and the perspectives are quite separate, marked off by chapter breaks. So whose dream is it? Another problem is that the dream is not very dreamlike for a long time. There are hints, moments, but mostly it’s a logical story, often with some quite complex ideas being expressed, the sort that seem unlikely even for a casual conversation between lovers and even more unlikely for a dream. For example, Jean-Marc soliloquising after visiting a dying friend in hospital: “Friendship is indispensable to man for the proper function of his memory. Remembering our past, carrying it around with us always, may be the necessary requirement for maintaining, as they say, the wholeness of the self. To ensure that the self doesn’t shrink, to see that it holds on to its volume, memories have to be watered like potted flowers, and the watering calls for regular contact with the witnesses of the past, that is to say, with friends. They are our mirror; our memory; we ask nothing of them but that they polish the mirror from time to time so we can look at ourselves in it.” Very insightful and beautifully expressed, but it sounds like Kundera’s thoughts, not Jean-Marc’s speech and certainly not like any kind of dream.I might read the book again, to see if the boundary between dream and reality becomes clearer. It’s quite short, more of a novella, so it wouldn’t take long. But in any case it is interesting to see how the dream resolution irritated me. I suppose that I had become interested in the characters and the situation, which was very cleverly contrived on a series of misunderstandings. Chantal was in a bad mood, and when Jean-Marc questioned her she said it was because men didn’t look at her any more, which was a thought that had occurred to her but was not really important to her - she said it more to get him off her back. He, however, took it very seriously and decided to write anonymous letters of admiration to her, to make her feel better. She hides them away, and when he sees this it makes him jealous. She, on the other hand, is furious when she discovers that he is the writer and, more, that he has found where she hides the letters. She feels invaded and spied upon, and thinks Jean-Marc has contrived the whole thing to trap her.I found this a very interesting plot, and sympathised with the characters. I wanted to see where it went, and so to have it go nowhere at all was dissatisfying, despite a grudging admiration for the way the story had been told to keep the balance just right and the truth revealed at the right time.The tenses of the narration shifted constantly, and I’m not sure why. The present tense seemed to be used mostly for thoughts or feelings, and the past tense for action. Perhaps this was hinting at the dream resolution. Chantal thinks early on in the book “That is why she dislikes dreams: they impose an unacceptable equivalence among the various periods of the same life, a levelling contemporaneity of everything a person has ever experienced; they discredit the present by denying it its privileged status.”Perhaps the mixed-up tenses are part of the author’s dream. Perhaps it’s not Chantal or Jean-Marc who are dreaming at all, but Milan Kundera.
  • (1/5)
    When good writers grow old they sometimes do silly things. For instance, they take what made them famous (for example, philosophical ramblings in the middle of their novels) and take that too far; they change their writing style to become short and abrupt, trying vainly to seem important and current; they lose sense of what made their characters so compelling in the first place; they add twist endings without thinking through why, and end up just saying "It was all a dream after all."And guess what happens here?