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The Joke by Milan Kundera

The Joke (1967)

by Milan Kundera

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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English (15)  French (3)  Spanish (2)  Czech (1)  Portuguese (1)  Hebrew (1)  Swedish (1)  All languages (24)
Showing 1-5 of 15 (next | show all)
Read this book in my spare time during a short stint working in a bookstore and it immediately and I dare say permanently lodged itself into my list of beloved books.

Why this book's rating lies below four stars befuddles me. It's an exciting and provocative tale of the dehumanization of a person by an autocratic state. Fuck 1984 and Brave New World; Kundera saw them all and raised. ( )
  palaverofbirds | Mar 29, 2013 |
This is Kundera's first and, in my opinion, best novel. (Later he became better at aphorisms than stories.) This novel has more beauty in it than all the others combined, and the irony/tragedy is more effective than in the others because it unfolds with the story, catching both the protagonist and the reader off guard.

If you're like me, this book will convince you to love Czech folk music before you've even heard it. ( )
1 vote Muscogulus | Mar 3, 2013 |
It is important to understand how The Joke is organized because to just read it without paying attention is like landing in a foreign country and driving without a map. The book is in seven parts, each part being the point of view of a different character until the 7th part. It reads like a musical quartet with Ludvik, Helena, Jaroslav and Kostka all give their perception of "the joke." The story starts with Ludvik returning to his hometown after 15 years and knowing no one. He reminiscences about a joke gone horribly wrong. But when the reader gets to part II the point of view has changed without announcement. Only by paying attention to the table of contents do we know we are now getting someone else's perception of the joke. While there are many jokes throughout the story it is important to note the original joke stems from a postcard Ludvik has written a classmate implying he is a Trotskyite. ( )
  SeriousGrace | Sep 14, 2012 |
a black comedy of life in stalinist eastern europe. i read it twice for school, and enjoyed it both times. but it is so so frustrating, and i wish kundera were a little more fair to his female characters. ( )
  eas311 | Jul 12, 2010 |
A tremendously subtle book about human relationships, politics, history, & very much more. It impressed me profoundly, the best of three Kunderas I have read so far. ( )
  marek2009 | Nov 8, 2009 |
Showing 1-5 of 15 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (41 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Kundera, Milanprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Aragon, LouisPrefacesecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Asher, AaronTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Aymonin, MarcelTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Courtot, ClaudeEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hamblyn, DavidTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Heim, Michael HenryTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Stallybrass, OliverTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Шульгина, Н.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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So here I was, home again after all those years. Standing in the main square (which I had crossed countless times as a child, as a boy, as a young man), I felt no emotion whatsoever; all I could think was that the flat space, with the spire of the town hall (like a soldier in an ancient helmet) rising above the rooftops, looked like a huge parade ground and that the military past of the Moravian town, once a bastion against Magyar and Turk invaders, had engraved an irrevocable ugliness on its face.
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Disambiguation notice
Please note: The 1st English-language version was translated by Hamblyn and Stallybrass (1969); the 2nd English version was based on Hamblyn and Stallybrass, but "curtailed" (1969, New York, Coward-McCann); the 3rd English version was revised by author (1970, London, Penguin); the 4th English version was translated by Heim and includes a preface by Kundera explaining the previous 3 English versions (1982); and the 5th Definitive Version in English was fully revised by Kundera and translated by Kundera and Asher, based on Heim's previous translation (1992). Definitive Version has "Author's Note" explaining all 5 English-language versions.
This 1st version translated into English was rendered by the translators David Hamblyn and Oliver Stallybrass. This 1st version should not be confused with subsequent English-language versions. For an explanation of this, see "Author's Note" in the definitive version (the 5th version).
The Definitive Version is the 5th version translated into English, which was fully revised by the author. For an explanation of this, see "Author's Note" in the definitive version. Definitive Version was translated by Aaron Asher and Milan Kundera, based on the 4th translation of Michael Henry Heim.
This 4th Version translated into English, is not to be confused with the Definitive Version (5th version, English). For an explanation of this, see "Author's Note" in the definitive version. This 4th Version was translated by Michael Henry Heim.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 006099505X, Paperback)

All too often, this brilliant novel of thwarted love and revenge miscarried has been read for its political implications. Now, a quarter century after The Joke was first published and several years after the collapse of the Soviet-imposed Czechoslovak regime, it becomes easier to put such implications into perspective in favor of valuing the book (and all Kundera 's work) as what it truly is: great, stirring literature that sheds new light on the eternal themes of human existence.

The present edition provides English-language readers an important further means toward revaluation of The Joke. For reasons he describes in his Author's Note, Milan Kundera devoted much time to creating (with the assistance of his American publisher-editor) a completely revised translation that reflects his original as closely as any translation possibly can: reflects it in its fidelity not only to the words and syntax but also to the characteristic dictions and tonalities of the novel's narrators. The result is nothing less than the restoration of a classic.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:20:43 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

Set in Stalinist Czechoslovakia during the 1950s, this tragicomedy revolves around the consequences of a single joke: a young man, is expelled from university and the Communist party and sentenced to six years hard labor for an irreverent postcard he sends to a lady friend. This leaves him cynical, bitter, and out for revenge.… (more)

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