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Book Review: The Book of Laughter and Forgetting



The Book of Laughter and Forgetting was written by Milan Kundera and it was published by Harper in 1999. You can purchase it on Amazon.


The Book of Laughter and Forgetting is an appropriate and well-fitting title for this exceptional novel.



Milan Kundera, while now deceased, lives on in grand prose, in this, his first novel released internationally in the 1970s. He explores our human existence with loads of his unique brand of dry and sexually tinged humor, but a serious examination also pervades.


The novel is set in Czechoslovakia during the Prague Spring of 1968. Teachers, writers and historians were on the verge of tasting freedom from communism, but their optimism was obliterated in August of 1968 when the Russians invaded. Tens of thousands emigrated to other countries but hundreds of thousands who stayed lost their livelihoods and many went to jail.


Kundera introduces us to several characters and stories in this novel of seven parts. He touches on sex, politics, music, fairy tales and even gives us an autobiographical look at what moved him during that important time in history. The Book of Laughter and Forgetting is an appropriate and well-fitting title for this exceptional novel.


The characters are rich and entertaining and there were many instances during my reading where I burst out laughing. I was also interested in his political views and the challenges that faced him during those difficult times, reminding me of similar circumstances that are occurring in the world today. Some of the passages that moved me and brought on the giggles:


He shouted "Children, never look back!" and this meant that we must never allow the future to be weighed down by memory. For children have no past, and that is the whole secret of the magical innocence of their smiles.


All of us are prisoners of a rigid conception of what is important and what is not, and so we fasten our anxious gaze on the important, while from a hiding place behind our backs the unimportant wages its guerilla war, which will end in surreptitiously changing the world and pouncing on us by surprise.


When he was naked, Barbara held up the alarm clock: "Look at the second hand. If you don't get a hard-on within a minute, you'll have to leave!" "They stared at my crotch, and while the seconds ticked away, they started laughing! And then they threw me out!"


The Book of Laughter and Forgetting: I loved it!


I give The Book of Laughter and Forgetting 4 out of 5 stars.

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