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The Book of Laughter and Forgetting (1978)

by Milan Kundera

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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6,153591,626 (3.87)124
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.… (more)
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» See also 124 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 47 (next | show all)
A classic (there’s that word again) piece of literature related to the 1968 Soviet Invasion of Czechoslovakia. All of Kundera’s works are great, and being a big fan of Czech authors, I recommend everything related to this author and topic. That being said, it’s dangerous to label a genre according to the nationality of its authors or the historical events it encompasses. Kundera writes about the nature of freedom and responsibility, of loyalty, of action, and the interaction of individuals with their society. These themes are relevant to all eras of history, including the present. ( )
  Kiramke | Jun 27, 2023 |
There is a shimmering brilliance in this book by Milan Kundera. The opening paragraph of the first story hooks you, and I don't want to spoil the book. From a story about life in a dictatorship to the second story detailing the strange sexual and emotional lives of people, and from there on to other stories, you are in for a treat.
That is a long sentence.
You enter the world of the characters in each story, and they spring to life. The writing style is deceptively simple. Don't let that fool you.
There are depths, which you sense only if you are acutely aware of the people who surround you. Their language, their hypocrisy, their clothing, their society, their anxieties.
The stories are short, and each is complete in itself. ( )
  RajivC | Mar 26, 2022 |
some good and some bland ( )
  stravinsky | Dec 28, 2020 |
4.5 ( )
  JaysenElsky | Sep 17, 2020 |
4.5 ( )
  JaysenElsky | Sep 17, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 47 (next | show all)

» Add other authors (21 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Milan Kunderaprimary authorall editionscalculated
Asher, AaronTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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In February 1948, the Communist leader Klement Gottwald stepped out on the balcony of a Baroque palace in Prague to harangue hundreds of thousands of citizens massed in Old Town Square.
Quotations
"The invention of printing formerly enabled people to understand one another. In the era of universal graphomania, the writing of books has an opposite meaning: everyone surrounded by his own words as by a wall of mirrors, which allow no voice to filter through from outside."
The first time an angel heard the devil’s laughter, he was dumbfounded. That happened at a feast in a crowded room, where the devil’s laughter, which is terribly contagious, spread from one person to another. The angel clearly understood that such laughter was directed against God and against the dignity of His works. He knew that he must react swiftly somehow, but felt weak and defenseless. Unable to come up with anything of his own, he aped adversary. Opening his mouth, he emitted broken, spasmodic sounds in the higher reaches of his vocal range (a bit like the sound made on the street of a seaside town by Michelle and Gabrielle), but giving them an opposite meaning: whereas the devil’s laughter denoted the absurdity of things, the angel on the contrary meant to rejoice over how well ordered, wisely conceived, good and meaningful everything here below was.

The angel and the devil faced each other and, mouths wide open, emitted nearly the same sounds, but each one’s noises expressed the absolute opposite of the other’s. And seeing the angel laugh, the devil laughed all the more, all the harder, and all the more blatantly, because the laughing angel was infinitely comical.

Laughable laughter is disastrous. Even so, the angels have gained something from it. They have tricked us with a semantic imposture. Their imitation of laughter and (the devil’s) original laughter are both called by the same name. Nowadays, we don’t even realize that the same external display serves two absolutely opposed internal attitude. There are two laughters, and we have no word to tell one from the other.
It takes so little, so infinitely little, for a person to cross the border beyond which everything loses meaning: love, conviction, faith, history. Human life --- and herein lies its secret --- takes place in the immediate proximity of that border, even in direct contact with it; it is not miles away, but a fraction of an inch.
We are living in the great historical era when physical love will be once and for all transformed into ridiculous motions.  
People fascinated by the idea of progress never suspect that every step forward is also a step on the way to the end and that behind all the joyous "onward and upward" slogans lurks the lascivious voice of death urging us to make haste.  
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
Please note: Michael Henry Heim translated the 1st English-language version (1980) from Czech; and Aaron Asher translated the 2nd English-language version (1996) from the revised French version (1985).
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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.

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