In Ignorance, set in contemporary Prague, one of the most distinguished writers of our time takes up the complex and emotionally charged theme of exile and creates from it a literary masterpiece. A man and a woman meet by chance while returning to their homeland, which they had abandoned twenty years earlier when they chose to become exiles. Will ...
In Ignorance, set in contemporary Prague, one of the most distinguished writers of our time takes up the complex and emotionally charged theme of exile and creates from it a literary masterpiece. A man and a woman meet by chance while returning to their homeland, which they had abandoned twenty years earlier when they chose to become exiles. Will they manage to pick up the thread of their strange love story, interrupted almost as soon as it began and then lost in the tides of history? The truth is that after such a long absence 'their memories no longer match.' We always believe that our memories coincide with those of the person we loved, that we experienced the same thing. But this is just an illusion as the memory records only 'an insignificant, minuscule particle' of the past, 'and no one knows why it's this bit and not any other bit.' We live our lives sunk in a vast forgetting, and we refuse to see it. Only those who return after twenty years, like Ulysses returning to his native Ithaca, can be dazzled and astounded by observing the goddess of ignorance first-hand. Milan Kundera has taken these dizzying concepts of absence, memory, forgetting, and ignorance, and transformed them into material for a novel, masterfully orchestrating them into a polyphonic and moving work.
Milan Kundera has a gift for putting into words the most minute feelings that all human beings have, a way to give name to that which we have felt but never been able to name. This is totally evident in Ignorance, a magical book dealing with the concepts of exile and memory - its flaws, its shared nature, it's capacity to both give us a home and detach us from progress. In its two main characters, and their surrounding circle of friends and family, Kundera is able to show us how most of us relate to the experience of being away from the place where we were known and grew up, and the possibilities and pitfalls of any return to it - having lived away from my country of birth for 10 years now, I found myself on the verge of tears at various points, and recognized many of the wonderful and infuriating traits we all develop in this situation.
A magical book, even if towards the end it unravels a little. A most recommended read.
Publishers Weekly, 2002-08-26 "Would an Odyssey even be conceivable today? Is the epic of return pertinent to our own time? When Odysseus woke on Ithaca's shore that morning, could he have listened in ecstasy to the music of the Great Return if the old olive trees had been felled and he recognized nothing around him?" Kundera (The Unbearable Lightness of Being) continues to perfect his amalgam of Nietzschean aphorism and erotic tale-telling in this story of disappointing homecomings. The time is 1989 and the Communists have fallen in Prague. In the Paris airport, Irena, a Czech emigre, recognizes an ex-compatriot, Josef. More than 20 years ago, Josef almost seduced Irena in a Prague bar; the two chat and agree to meet again in Prague. Each is returning for a different reason. Irena, in 1968, fled the country with Martin, her husband, to escape the political pressure he was under. Martin is long dead, their children are grown and Irena is now being pressured to return to Prague by her Swedish lover, Gustaf, who has set up an office in the city. Josef, a veterinarian, also left the country after the Russian invasion, out of disgust. He is returning to the Czech Republic to fulfill a request from his recently deceased wife. Both discover new and annoying aspects of Prague (such as Kafka T-shirts) as well as old bitterness. When they meet, Josef neglects to tell Irena one fact: he doesn't really remember her. With elegant detachment and measured passion, Kundera once again shows himself the master of both the erudite and the carnal in this Mozartian interlude. (Oct. 4) Forecast: Kundera's succession of novels with one-word titles (Identity; Slowness; Immortality), all originally written in French, have drawn a more mixed reception from critics than his earlier novels written in Czech. This novel will probably be no exception-and will likely match the previous three in sales-but the consistency and quality of Kundera's output is matched by few contemporary writers. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
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