After the gravity of "The Unbearable Lightness of Being" and "Immortality," "Slowness" comes as a surprise: It is certainly Kundera's lightest novel, a "divertimento," an "opera buffa," with, as the author himself says, "not a single serious word in it"; then, too, it is the first of his novels to have been written in French (in the eyes of the ...
After the gravity of "The Unbearable Lightness of Being" and "Immortality," "Slowness" comes as a surprise: It is certainly Kundera's lightest novel, a "divertimento," an "opera buffa," with, as the author himself says, "not a single serious word in it"; then, too, it is the first of his novels to have been written in French (in the eyes of the French public, turning him definitively into a "French writer"). Disconcerted and enchanted, the reader follows the narrator of "Slowness" through a midsummer's night in which two tales of seduction, separated by more than 200 years, interweave and oscillate between the sublime and the comic. In the 18th-century narrative, the marvelous Madame de T. summons a young nobleman to her chbteau one evening and gives him an unforgettable lesson in the art of seduction and the pleasures of love. In the same chbteau at the end of the 20th century, a hapless young intellectual experiences a rather less successful night. Distracted by his desire to be the center of public attention at a convention of entomologists, Vincent loses the beautiful Julie -- ready and willing though she is to share an evening of intimacy and sexual pleasure with him -- and suffers the ridicule of his peers. A "morning-after" encounter between the two young men from different centuries brings the novel to a poignant close: Vincent has already obliterated the memory of his humiliation as he prepares to speed back to Paris on his motorcycle, while the young nobleman will lie back on the cushions of his carriage and relive the night before in the lingering pleasure of memory. Underlying this libertine fantasy is a profound meditation on contemporary life: about thesecret bond between slowness and memory, about the connection between our era's desire to forget and the way we have given ourselves over to the demon of speed. And about "dancers" possessed by the passion to be seen, for whom life is merely a perpetual show emptied of every intimacy and every joy."Irresistible. . . . "Slowness" is an ode to sensuous leisure, to the enjoyment of pleasure rather than just the search for it."--Cathleen Schine, "Mirabella" "Audacity, wit, and sheer brilliance." "--New York Times Book Review" "Paradoxically, "Slowness."..is the fastest paced of Kundera's novels as well as the most accessible." "--Boston Globe"
I'm a big Kundera fan and have read most of his other books. Slowness is different to his earlier books in that it is significantly smaller and was orignally written in French (rather than his native Czech). However, it is still brimming with Kundera's typically astute observations on life, love - and specifically in this novel - the pace at which we live our lives. Kundera postulates that we (well, some of us) live quickly in order to forget our forgettable lives. Readable in three or four hours, this is a great introduction to Kundera for the uninitiated, and a by no means slight addition to his oeuvre for those who have read him before.
Publishers Weekly, 1996-04-01 Kundera's latest (after Immortality) is a scintillating jeu d'esprit, as coolly elegant and casually brutal as the 18th-century French arts to which the text pays tribute. Indeed, this is the expatriate Czech author's first novel written in French, his adopted homeland's native tongue. The paintings of Fragonard and Watteau, Sade's La Philosophie dans le boudoir, Laclos's Les Liaisons dangereuses and an obscure novella entitled Point de lendemain, by Vivant Denon, are all invoked by the narrator, who may be Kundera himself (his wife calls him "Milanku"). He recalls the plot of Point de lendemain while visiting a ch?teau-turned-hotel, admiring the leisurely hedonism implicit in both these relics of a bygone age. "Why has the pleasure of slowness disappeared?" the narrator asks as he considers the frantic, joyless pursuit of stimulation that modern men and women call pleasure. He remembers-or perhaps invents-a group of French intellectuals determined to demonstrate their political correctness as a means of furthering their ambitions. "Dancers," he calls them, discerning that they are more concerned with displaying their moral purity than with accomplishing anything. The political and sexual maneuverings of these contemporary characters intermingle with the narrator's musings and ongoing retelling of Point de lendemain; in a brilliant and oddly moving finale, the protagonist of the 18th-century novella comes face to face with his present-day counterpart, Vincent, who is incapable of slowing down long enough to appreciate the meaning of the experiences he has just undergone. A deliberate chilliness of tone and the one-dimensionality of Vincent and his peers keep this from being as emotionally engaging as it is intellectually stimulating. Nonetheless, it embodies provocative thoughts on personal and social triviality from a postmodern master. 100,000 first printing; $100,000 ad/promo. (May) FYI: Also in May, HarperPerennial is issuing a new translation of The Book of Laughter and Forgetting by Aaron Asher, Kundera's longtime editor and publisher, and husband of Linda Ashe. The translation incorporates revisions made by Kundera in the mid-1980s. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
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