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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Return of the exile
I had forgotten how good Kundera is. I read his early novels years ago and loved them, but I somehow forgot what a master he is.
This book speaks to all exiles, and I mean by that all who have moved away from their roots to somewhere else for whatever reason. Those who stay behind have less and less in common with the person who returns. I can feel resonances...
Published on 3 Nov 2003 by Dr Martin Price

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3.0 out of 5 stars No Man's Land
Kundera's essay on nostalgia, put in the form of a slight novel, makes its big points in the background rather than through the story and its characters. These hit home (I, too, am an emigrant).The book is full of wise observations about how we emigrants feel and what its like to return. The Odyssey is the first book of nostalgia, etc - very interesting.

The...
Published on 9 Feb 2011 by The Outsider


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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Return of the exile, 3 Nov 2003
By 
Dr Martin Price (Dinas Powys, Vale of Glamorgan United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Ignorance (Paperback)
I had forgotten how good Kundera is. I read his early novels years ago and loved them, but I somehow forgot what a master he is.
This book speaks to all exiles, and I mean by that all who have moved away from their roots to somewhere else for whatever reason. Those who stay behind have less and less in common with the person who returns. I can feel resonances despite living only sixty miles from where I grew up.
He is particularly good on the selectivity of memory. Did I leave because I wanted to escape or because of some other reason I now mis-remember ?
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars I love 2004, 13 Feb 2004
This review is from: Ignorance (Paperback)
Fairly new in paperback, Ignorance is the story of Irena and Josef; two Czech exiles who undertake a return to their homeland after the fall of Communism. Perhaps inevitably, I think anyone who has read The Unbearable Lightness of Being will to some degree be disappointed with this novel. But it is important in its own right for being, amongst other things, a proper thesis on nostalgia. The new television genre of the 'nostalgia documentary', from "I love 1960" pretty much through to "I love last week", has seemingly packaged an emotion that sells. Sated by this chocolate-box treatment of the word, we have generally lost sight of its true epic character. By unravelling etymological fabric and writing what is essentially a casebook on the subject, Kundera identifies nostalgia as a core complex of the mind and arguably as a fundamental part of what makes us human. This is particularly thought-provoking because Prague is a city in danger of losing its soul. The Czechs are rarely subject to much human attention from tourists and vice versa. Let's not bother debating cause and effect. Many visitors could do worse than to take Milan Kundera's Ignorance with them, and leave their own behind.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Rich Tapestry, 2 Sep 2003
By 
This review is from: Ignorance (Paperback)
Milan Kundera's latest work adds to his reputation as a haunting philosophical writer with a unique and compelling mastery of language.
Taking the themes of ignorance, identity, nostalgia, memory and love, and adding a fresh examination of 'The Odyssey', he weaves a powerful tale of homecoming around three main characters: Irena, who undertakes a 'Great Return' to the Czech Republic; Josef, who, embarking on the same journey, finds himself adrift in his 'homeland' - 'listening to an unknown language whose every word he understood'; and Milada, a lonely woman scarred for life by a traumatic episode in her teens. All three are connected by their memories of who they were and, in the cases of Irena and Josef, by their confusion as to who they have become during the long years of exile. But memories, Kundera stresses, are weak, unreliable and inconsistent with the recollections of others. Yet, as demonstrated by Irena, Josef and Milada, they form a disproportionately large part of our identities. What happens then, when they are revealed as false or misleading? What happens when we are then left effectively ignorant of ourselves?
Read it and think.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Thought-provoking, 7 Nov 2004
This review is from: Ignorance (Paperback)
Reading a novel by Kundera is like having a long meaningful conversation which lingers in your memory for weeks.
Kundera seems to be particularly fascinated with memory and in this novel he expands on the subject, putting into words things you might have thought impossible. He integrates themes of memory, absence and forgetting into a novel perfectly. In this book he speaks of a man and a woman who meet again by chance after many years. Their meeting has a different meaning to each one, mainly because their memories mismatch and with each one holding on to his/her 'memories' the relationship that forms is a strange one. When she returns to her homeland she realises how many things have changed, or perhaps she is seeing them in a different way. Although these people knew her before her exile, a lot of time has passed, and people change over the years especially if they are living apart.
An excellent and thought-provoking read!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Rich in ideas on human sensitivity and psychology, 24 Feb 2003
By 
A. Peel (UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Ignorance (Hardcover)
Ignorance" is a very dense work in terms of all the ideas it raises, despite it being short. It is primarily a tale of homecoming after the many years of silent absence of those who fled the Communist regime in Czechoslavia. More than that, the work raises the fundamental question of where home actually is after many years of being away from your birthland.
Kundera beautifully captures the difference in perception between the departed and those he or she left behind. For those left behind, the person coming back is the one they knew long ago, hence the lack of questions, but the mere choice of the language in which Kundera chose to write this novel - French - symbolises how much he, the author,and the characters through him, have absorbed the French culture. His identity has evolved far beyond their perception of it.
There is one key scene in the novel when a moment of passion occurs between the two key characters. I believe it is very important to recognise that the height of this intimacy takes place in Czech and in the homeland, with a man the heroine of the novel had always dreamed of.
She uses words she has neither heard nor uttered for years, for no one would have truly understood their impact in France. The passion and the strength in the vulgarity of her words seem to express her violent need communicate in her mother tongue with someone who truly understands in all senses of the term.
These two characters are drawn to one another by their mutual departure, mutual return, mutual language and what one believes to be a mutual memory. One realises by the end of the work that memory is never quite mutual.
Whilst I found the start of the novel weak, I was quickly reassured and as absorbed by Kundera's power of perception as ever.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars How people are not interested in other people, 16 Oct 2007
This review is from: Ignorance (Paperback)
Another masterpiece from Kundera about national identity and how people are not interested in other people. Irena who has spent 20 years in France returns to the Check republic at the same time as Josef, who has spent 20 years in Denmark. Their friends and family left in the home country are not very interested in what Irena and Josef have been up to abroad. They expect them to start up where they left. However the same things happen in France and Denmark; there's little interest in their past. Irena's life only has value for her French friends if they see her as a refugee and are surprised that she doesn't want to return when she's got the chance.

Irena remembers Josef, but Josef doesn't remember Irena. They just end up having lunch together and because they are both emigrants they can understand each other. Both of them fled their country for other reasons than the communism. They wanted a new start, a place where they could be independent.

Kundera's style is very sparse and he uses the characters to describe the certain emotional trauma that occurs when you return to a place in the past. As in many of other Kundera's books the characters are not meant to be real people, they are mere tools to a deeper understanding of a concept.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Exile equals death, 9 Sep 2009
By 
Luc REYNAERT (Beernem, Belgium) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Ignorance (Paperback)
This book is Milan Kundera's variation on the Odyssey theme, exemplified in the fate of his home country the Czech Republic and its inhabitants.

Many Czechs emigrated during the revolution of 1968 as they saw their future in their country as very bleak. But, the situation changed completely after the Fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. The Czech Republic became again a completely independent, free and multi-party State.
During the emigration years, the general mood of the emigrants was `nostalgia', the pain of ignorance, of not knowing what happened in their far away country.

When they went back after the Fall of the Berlin Wall, they saw amazingly that they no longer existed for their relatives: `he had the sense he was coming back into the world as might a dead man emerging from his tomb.'
Former lovers didn't know each other anymore: `a reality is no longer what it was when it was; it cannot be reconstituted.'
Even legally, the emigrants didn't exist anymore. After 1989, all properties nationalized under the communist regime were returned to their former owners (or their children). This restitution became irrevocable after one year, if the claim was not contested.

This book is a strong meditation on human memory (`which is only capable of retaining a paltry little scrap of the past') and on man's fate (`If we do not know what future the present is leading us toward, how can we say whether this present is good or bad.')

It is a perfect introduction to Milan Kundera's literary universe dominated by such cardinal themes as the enigma of the self, the ineluctable defeat called life, memory and forgetting, and freedom of man and of expression (literature).
A must read for all lovers of world literature.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Kundera falters in his own, beautiful, dreamlike way, 6 Feb 2003
By 
ghandibob (Swansea) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: Ignorance (Hardcover)
I have loved Kundera’s books since reading The Book of Laughter and Forgetting. That, and The Unbearable Lightness of Being. Both wonderful, fabulous, enchanting, philosophical, dreamy and unremitting books. I’ve enjoyed all the others he has written, including the non-fiction, The Art of the Novel, Testaments Betrayed, and so it comes as a difficult but necessary admission that I have found the later novels not to reach the giddying highs of his earlier work.
This may be a product of translation from translation, with the nuance lost. Before, he wrote in his native tongue, and I read its direct translation into English. Now, and for the last three novels, he is writing in French. Kundera’s facility for languages is boggling – I remember reading that he can speak five and, having settled in France, no doubt his French is faultless – but it surely is no co-incidence that those books thought in Czech and written in French are much slighter, slimmer volumes. The philosophy is there still; a thread worked, a theme embroidered, running through the narrative as a bolt of wonderful, thoughtful reality in the colourful fictional dreams he creates. But what is lost, I feel certain, is that plot and character that helps give form to those thoughts that appear in the larger books. It is as if the strain of writing in a different language has placed too much pressure on his plotting.
Ignorance is about the loss of memory and the loss of place that moving away from your country and, ultimately, your family and your past enforces. It is such a pertinent theme for Kundera, having been gone from his home for so long, and there are great moments of clarity, wonderfully expressed. There are beautiful images and clever insights, not only into the life of the émigré, but also, on a more basic level, into how we grow older, how we must move away from our family and where we grew up if we are to attain independence.
But, and in a way that never seemed to happen before, the characters and the plot have lost out in the battle for priority in Ignorance. There is definitely a feeling of wooziness; of dreams half remembered and events imagined. This happens continually to Irena and is a product of moving away, but it is also how the reader feels. Deliberately, I think, Kundera creates a weightlessness that allows the narrative to float like an untethered raft. And it is cleverly done. Inescapably, though, the formlessness harms the novel. The characters are vague and too dispersed, the plot almost lost, like a shimmer of silk in the sunlight.
I would not recommend that anyone intrigued by Kundera – and, let me say, anyone with an interest in literature, is duty bound to take an interest – start by reading Ignorance. Standing on its own, it is a strange, oddly affecting, periodically stunning, but often undeveloped, novel. Seen in the light of the rest of his books, it comes as an intriguing aside. One not to go unheard, but certainly not one worth straining too hard to hear.
When we have gone away, we are left with one choice: to go back. Everyone does. But when we get there, there are two actions from which to choose. To stay or to leave. Kundera has left those old Czech concerns behind. The Republic is like a young son, all grown up, making its own money and no longer needing its father to speak for it. But I hope Kundera will return. With luck, he may find the stories he has seemingly left behind.
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1.0 out of 5 stars Wooden, un-likeable characters who wallow in their own misery, 9 Feb 2014
By 
J. Busch (London) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Ignorance (Paperback)
Wooden, un-likeable characters who wallow in their own misery instead of taking life into their own hands and changing things.
Even though this is a short book, it has incredibly boring lengths.

How this could attract reviews such as 'moving, profound and exquisitely written' (albeit by the Mail on Sunday), is a mystery to me.
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4.0 out of 5 stars An Odyssey interpretation, 30 July 2013
By 
S. Shamma "Suad" (Abu Dhabi, UAE) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Ignorance (Paperback)
This was my first Milan Kundera book and I was very pleased with my selection. Quite a straightforward and easy to read book, Ignorance is a novel that delves into the lives of refugees. Two, to be exact.

How their lives have changed when they left their country, in this case the Czech Republic during the Russian invasion, and moved to neighbouring countries to make a new life for themselves. What it feels like to go back to their country of origin after so many years, how the memories they had of their past lives have become distorted by time.

It was very interesting to go through this journey with Irena and Josef, and very personal as well. Both of them have come home only to feel like they did not belong any more. That their lives are elsewhere now, and that their memories as well as those of the people around them don't even match. Upon their return, they are haunted by memories they had of a time gone, they find themselves unused to this life that was once theirs, having to adjust to certain aspects and old acquaintances.

Home was no longer home.

I found it very interesting on a personal level, because I always wonder to myself what it would be like to return to my homeland, Palestine, and how it would feel to be back to a place I always thought I belonged to after living close to 26 years in another country that I now call home.

Definitely a thought-provoking book, with many great and profound moments. I look forward to reading more of Kundera's books.
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