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The Book of Laughter and Forgetting Paperback – 20 May 1996


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Product details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Faber & Faber; New Ed edition (20 May 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 057117437X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571174379
  • Product Dimensions: 12.6 x 2 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 40,033 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

""The Book of Laughter and Forgetting calls itself a novel, although it is part fairy tale, part literary criticism, part political tract, part musicology, and part autobiography. It can call itself whatever it wants to, because the whole is genius.""-- New York Times""This book, as it bluntly calls itself, is brilliant and original, written with the purity and wit that invite us directly in."-- John Updike, "New York Times Book Review"

About the Author

The French-Czech novelist Milan Kundera was born in the Czech Republic and has lived in France since 1975.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Thomas271 on 25 July 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
An interesting and thought-provoking novel. This was the first Kundera novel I have read and to an extent, I was impressed. The book is rather philosophical throughout and challenges issues such as political oppression, perceptions of sexuality and death. I am not one to typically choose philosophical reading, however this book has teased me to read more. There are many extracts I love from this book that I will remember and read over and over again for their strong metaphorical power and existential provocation (in other words many chapters are the trigger for a long thinking session about the way we perceive things in life) - however the whole book is not like this. I would love to say this whole book was gripping and interesting from cover to cover, but this is not the case. Despite there being many interesting parts, a lot of the novel is, in my opinion, a waste of words. There are long sections that are neither philosophical nor gripping, but a simple account of an ordinary event in a character's life. This is the sort of language Kundera uses frequently throughout the novel, and I was disappointed by the lack of "good parts". Therefore, for people willing to read a whole novel for only a handful of amazing metaphors and perceptions, this is the novel for you. But those looking for a constant thrill and a gripping book, I would stay away from this one.
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48 of 54 people found the following review helpful By Miss L. M. Unsworth on 6 Jan 2003
Format: Paperback
This book was the best accident that ever happened to me. I picked it up because it was cheap and it stopped me reading Dean Koontz which can only be a good thing! It has a fractured, post modern narrative which leaps back and forth and the author brings into question who is writing and what is being created. The language he uses is amazing at times for it's sheer simplicity. The words seem to dance around each other - quite literally at times as in the chapter where the whole world begins to dance in a ring which floats off into the sky. Kundera owes a lot to Kafka although he seems to have a more optimistic outlook on life. He also reminds me at times of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, as strange things begin to happen yet none of the characters notice anything strange! He creates fantastically interesting theories and perfect sentances. Read it.
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23 of 28 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 15 Sep 2000
Format: Paperback
The Book of Laughter and Forgetting is a collection of similar short stories or, as Kundera explains it, a novel written in the experimental style of several variations on the same theme, and indeed all the stories/chapters are dependent on each other, and there is only one reasonable way of reading this book: from the first page to the end. The theme in question, as the title suggests, is that of laughter and forgetting, and this novel is worth reading just for its thought-provoking discussions on this subject. But all these discussions are just one of the several ingredients which make this novel a rich, enjoyable and unforgettable novel. Kundera's story telling and character crafting are at his best. Each plot is intelligent, funny as well as dramatic, evolves unpredictably and is delivered with great confidence. The novel is written very clearly and is immensely easy to read, although it is very hard not to stop often to think about what is written. All characters, and there are dozens of them, have a life of their own, are described in immense detail, and they often surprise the reader as well as the author. Kundera is also included in the character list, and this is his most autobiographic novel I've read. This novel is a must read for those who have enjoyed some of Kundera's novels. I also suggest this novel (and The Unbearable Lightness of Being) as an introduction to Kundera's works. This book is about laughter, forgetting, love, sex, history, politics, philosophy, beauty, ugliness, youth, old age and yourself, and is written by one of the most talented authors of our times.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Easily Me on 28 Sep 2008
Format: Paperback
Having read this, it makes me regret either giving almost any other book a five-star rating or the fact that it's not possible to give six stars in special circumstances. And these are special circumstances. All those books that have the five stars, they deserve them: they're great reads. But this, this is just exceptional. A masterpiece.

Yesterday, I wasn't reading a book. I was spending time in the company of a great person or great people. The style is so personal and intimate. Not only in the sense that another's soul is being laid bare but also in the sense of your own life stories being revealed to you. Very, very moving and very, very thought-provoking.

If you are at all interested in the condition of being human, human identity or you just enjoy meeting great characters in a book, it is impossible for me to rate this highly enough.

Time to stop now before I gush too much.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By David Brookes on 16 Jan 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is the second of Milan Kundera's books I've read. I'm starting to think that I've read all he has to offer.

This is not a bad book, but to call it a novel is a stretch. It's really a self-indulgent essay with fiction-y anecdotes strewn throughout. The whole thing in terms of its structure and its themes is very self conscious, so that you feel like you're being talked at rather than experiencing a story.

Having said that, the story elements are quite interesting and amusing. It's not, as one reviewer seemed to imply, meant to be a funny book on the whole. It's more political and social commentary than anything, disjointed, at times dry, but mercifully short and succinct.

A nice little distraction with a few things to say, but I felt hard done by again by picking out a Kundera "novel" in which the author's voice is overpowering and story is thin on the ground. I'm not sure if it's deliberate irony that Kundera makes a point about people only being interesting in their own thoughts, stories and perspectives when having a conversation - this is exactly what he does here, at the expense of fiction and the reader's patience.

It's not terrible. But it's not a novel or, in 2013, particularly insightful or daring.

5 / 10

David Brookes
Author of "Half Discovered Wings"
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