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on 17 January 2000
More elegant musings from novelist, philosopher and all-round deep thinker Milan Kundera. In this brief but intense novel, Kundera explores the contradictions of identity, how it orientates itself by the clear distinctions between what is familiar and unfamiliar, despite these distinctions being in a continual state of flux, blurred by time and circumstance. A seemingly ordinary couple, Chantal and Jean-Marc, become progressively unsettled and confused by the nature of their relationship. The effects of insignificant events mingle with deeper personal anxieties - the death of Chantal's child and her feelings of unattractiveness, Jean-Marc's romantic fear of destitution and the death of his former friend F.- and threaten to force them into a destructive spiral of reproach and uncertainty. Kundera touches on some interesting subjects, the fragility of certainty, and how friendship and identity when untested by adversity are only partially formed. Whatever its meaning, at least Kundera says his piece quickly (it can easily be read in a day) and with enough skill and eloquence to make it an enjoyable read, if a little bizarre.
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on 23 January 2003
Despite its often surreal flights of imagination, "Identity" is one of Kundera's more accessible books, featuring his usual mix of confused lovers and trenchant theories on the meaning of life (his theory on the nature of boredom and the reasons for its proliferation is spot-on).
However, as other reviewers have observed, the translation by Linda Asher is utterly appalling - any 6th-form A-level French student could have done a better job. As a fluent French speaker myself I wish I'd read it in the original French, as Asher has clearly translated it word-for-word, completely disregarding any subtlety or nuance, and she is obviously unfamiliar with Kundera's style. To publish such work under Kundera's name is little short of a disgrace, and I can only assure any readers for whom "Identity" is their first taste of Kundera not to be put off!
So **** for the book, * for the translation. If anyone from Faber's reading this and wants someone to do a proper job, drop me an email!
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on 6 July 2000
I read this book first in French, the language in which it was written. Being a native English speaker, I decided to read the English version when it came out, in case I might have missed something. This is a really good book in French, but the translation is appauling, terse, and painful. I'm not surprised it has received so many lukewarm reviews in the English speaking press. This is a strong case for not rushing translations and in working with the author to produce something more authentic.
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on 9 July 1999
I've read all of Milan Kundera's novels twice--except my least favorite, "Life is Elsewhere". The second reading of "The Joke" and "The Unbearable Lightness of Being" improved them, but the second reading of "Identity" improved "Identity" especially. Buy this book. If you aren't moved, put it aside for a year then read it again. (If the ending puzzles you, reread it slowly and carefully, remembering there is nothing to "get": Milan Kundera is always lucid and plain-spoken.)
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on 19 December 2011
This work of Milan Kundera is a very different from his previous novels, one I would say. The reason I think it is different is because the writer has no intention in what intrigue or fiction is concerned, he doesn't seem to care about any postmodern style or structure. Instead, he presents himself as or wants to be the simple man starting to write a simple story.

He wants to distance himself from the tradition and also gain his originality by trying to ignore it, to be as naive as one can be and write as if he were the first man writing the very first story. The narration is often full of emotion and descriptions, the prose wants to be a poem and uses a vague lyricism of every-day life . The book focuses on a simple story, in the same idea of simplicity of the entire novel. The story is also short in dimensions and there is a small number of characters.

The overall effect is a peaceful one, or a childish and plain prose, making the reader feel the urge to pick up a pen and write his own simple and touching story.

The only thing I can impute is that the translation seems to take a bit from the nuances the author uses.
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on 19 October 2012
What's going on? There seems to be a little gem lurking here. But is it or isn't it? And then you realise the problem has to be the translation. Lucky those who can read it in the original. For the rest of us, well there's still a worthwhile glimpse.
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on 10 March 2001
The important thing to remember, just as the reader from Chicago said, is that there is nothing to 'get'. Kundera writes beautifully and touchingly and that is enough in itself. One of those books that you're reluctant to finish..because it is so enjoyable to read(short book so all too quickly finished) ..anyone who liked The Unbearable Lightness of Being will enjoy this one
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on 27 July 2015
It's not everybody's cup of tea as it's a deeply intellectual and philosophical book but if you like this sort of thing, then it's a little gem with a clever twist in the end that you don't see coming.
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on 12 January 2001
Short novel. Subtle, very clever, weaves between two people, as well as reality and illusion, in a relationship.
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on 3 September 1999
I read Kundera's novels ten years ago and found him very powerful. I loved his quirky sense of history and his characters lingered long after I put the books down. But "Identity"...
Perhaps I should try again.
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