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Laughable Loves by Milan Kundera
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Laughable Loves (original 1969; edition 1999)

by Milan Kundera

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1,974113,431 (3.76)33
Member:portlandrain
Title:Laughable Loves
Authors:Milan Kundera
Info:Harper Perennial (1999), Paperback, 304 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:*****
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Laughable Loves by Milan Kundera (1969)

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English (6)  French (2)  Italian (1)  Hebrew (1)  Spanish (1)  All languages (11)
Showing 1-5 of 6 (next | show all)
This collection of short stories was my introduction to Kundera, one of the authors and thinkers about whom I’ve heard so much but whose work I hadn’t yet managed to read. Many people say that Kundera likes to use his stories as backdrops for his philosophical musings, so short stories are much more suited to this aim than novel-length work where he can over-indulge and go on for too long.

The first two stories in the collection were not an auspicious start to my first Kundera experience. One of the stories focuses on a guy whose practical joke, if you will, goes a bit awry, and the other one introduces us to a man and an older woman who meet on the street years after their one-time fling. I liked nothing about them. The language seemed automaton-like, unnatural and not poetic at all. The stories themselves didn’t seem to have much of a point and were boring. I couldn’t detect any sharp psychological analysis that people kept saying Kundera was known for.

The only reason I kept on reading instead of abandoning it was because it moved fairly quickly, and I held out hope that maybe the other stories would be better. Good thing I did so. Starting with the third story and onward to the last one, the stories seemed to liven up for me. I’m not sure if this was because I gradually got used to Kundera’s style; maybe it really did just have to do with how specific stories resonated more with me. Sure, the language was still pretty average, but the ideas behind the stories tickled my brain and I found myself flipping page after page, smiling as each character demonstrated their foibles, played mind games on each other for kicks, deluded themselves away from certain truths, or awakened to how the effects of aging were disrupting their sense of self. Kundera is able to articulate/capture people’s psyche in such a precise way that a light bulb kept going off in my head.

So in the end, enjoying five out of seven stories is a pretty good record for a short story collection. Overall though, if this is indicative of Kundera’s style, then my reading preferences and his style aren’t quite a good fit. But I’m glad that I dipped into a bit of his work at least.
( )
  Samchan | Mar 31, 2013 |
It's been many many years since I read any Kundera, and many many years since this original Writers from the Other Europe edition landed on my TBR. I remember really liking the works by Kundera I read back in the 80s?/90s, but I had mixed feelings about this early volume of short stories, all focused on the sexual games people play. Some I found disturbing, such as "The Hitchhiking Game," in which a role-playing game goes a little too psychologically far, "Let the Old Dead Make Way for the New Dead," in which the lead male character ponders whether it's better to have a delightful memory or a less delightful reality, and "Symposium," a multi-voiced tale with some largely thoughtless cruelty. Some I found playful and thought-provoking, such as "Nobody Will Laugh," about a man who starts out playing a largely innocent joke which then spirals out of control, "Doctor Havel in Ten Years," which shows how our state of mind can affect reality, and "Edward and God," which satirizes both religion and atheism while showing what happens to a character who pretends belief to get a girl. The only one that I found both fun and charming, and my favorite (maybe because of the mood I'm in!) was "The Golden Apple of Continuing Desire," in which the chase is all.

In these stories, Kundera explores not only the largely male sexual psyche but also the implications of playing jokes or pretending to be someone else, probing identity. That's the part I appreciated. I also can't help but feel that some of the obsession of the characters with chasing (and getting) women helps relieve some of the political repression they are subject too (although this is almost, but not entirely, off stage in these stories). Of course Kundera has always focused on sex, mixed with philosophy, which I guess makes the sex high-minded. I think what I'm saying is that I liked Kundera better when I was younger.
4 vote rebeccanyc | Mar 12, 2013 |
Another fascinating, funny & intelligent book by Kundera. Very imaginative philosophically, & what I disliked about BofL&F - the odd mix of sex & philosophising - works better here, as laughable loves are the them. This edition has a very good introductory essay by Philip Roth. ( )
  marek2009 | Sep 20, 2009 |
When Auster's three stories were grouped together to form "The New York Trilogy," each one added something to the other. This is exactly the case with Kundera's excellent collection of tales of lust, love, confusion, misunderstanding, and the search for happiness. The spirit of Prague is wonderfully captured, and the whole feels so bohemian and wise. Is it possible to love one person more than another - or to love one book more than another? - and then still love at all? ( )
1 vote soylentgreen23 | Jan 8, 2007 |
I just came across this collection of short stories, and as a devoted Kundera fan, I quickly devoured it amidst Christmas preparations, letter writings and other more dreary readings. And what a delight! This is early Bohemian Kundera, written while he still lived in then Czechoslovakia, and it is quite evident that he has not yet matured into the thoroughly seasoned writer that produced masterpieces such as "Life is Elsewhere", "The Unbearable Lightness of Being" and "Immortality". However, this is unmistakenly literary genius in the making, and the mood throughout is simply captivating.

The themes all deal with aspects of human sexuality - mostly from a Man's view. The stories have a raw sense of humanity to them - sometimes it can be uncomfortable reading; however, it has an undeniably tender undercurrent. Even when a character behaves despicably, I remained sympathtic with the human behind the actions. It just feels irresistably honest, and it is quite easy to get seduced by such well-portrayed human complexities.

Among my favorite stories were "The Old Dead Must Make Room for the New Dead", which portrays the dilemma of whether to preserve a diffuse, but beatiful sensual memory or replace it with a graphic, but uglier version that will ultimately erase the former. "Edward and God" is another gem that deals with sexual longing and the fickleness of Religion (Atheism is cleverly presented just as irrational in its dogmatisms as Christianity).
Finally "The Hitchhiking Game" is a classic portrayal of how easily perceptions can be irreversibly altered.

I highly recommend this short-story collection; however, if you are reading Milan Kundera for the first time, I am tempted to recommened one of his more famous works... ( )
3 vote kattepusen | Jan 1, 2007 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Kundera, Milanprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Beranová, JanaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rappaport, SuzanneTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Roth, PhilipIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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'Geef me nog een slivovits,' zei Klára, en ik had er niets op tegen.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0060997036, Paperback)

Milan Kundera is a master of graceful illusion and illuminating surprise. In one of these stories a young man and his girlfriend pretend that she is a stranger he picked up on the road--only to become strangers to each other in reality as their game proceeds. In another a teacher fakes piety in order to seduce a devout girl, then jilts her and yearns for God. In yet another girls wait in bars, on beaches, and on station platforms for the same lover, a middle-aged Don Juan who has gone home to his wife. Games, fantasies, and schemes abound in all the stories while different characters react in varying ways to the sudden release of erotic impulses.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:22:54 -0400)

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