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Customer Review

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Cold, intellectual sex..., 22 Nov 2012
This review is from: Immortality (Paperback)
In an opening with obvious Proustian overtones, the resistance of a gesture by an ageing dowager to properly conform to her maturity sparks off the construction of Kundera's novel. Construction is truly the word here, as we readers are invited from the inside into the author's process and Kundera obliges by laying open his various tricks and techniques to move the story along. The book, however, is less about that gesture and its properties than about coincidence, that long-time stalwart of the writer lost for plot connections. By employing this, Kundera manages to weave together the strands of his contemporary characters with sufficient clues for the intelligent reader to follow, but also telegraphs the signs to look for, leaving us knowing far more than the characters (and, it seems, the author) long in advance of the revelations of a new connection. There are two major problems with this. The first is that the aestheticised and intellectualised experience of life and sex by the characters is appallingly cold, distinctly lacking in humour and full of ominous portents. These latter turn into damp squibs when consequences arise because we find ourselves without a care for the aloof and emotionally retarded people who populate the novel, having anticipated their fate many pages before. The second is the inability for the best parts of the book, the historical sections that deal with immortality proper and exploring the reflexivity of figures who know themselves to be of historical importance or hope to be so, to interpolate with the lives and the story of the middle-class French dullards serving out their existence without enthusiasm in the rest of the book. Bettina and Goethe really are interesting, as Kundera shows, and quite deserving of their historical prominence even if this is due to entirely different methods to achieve it. The relationship between their vivid and dedicated attempts to control cultural memory and the fumblings of a modern and unimportant family (unimportant precisely because it is modern) without such driving forces makes the latter seem pathetic. Kundera's voice, so clearly at the surface of this novel, retains its fluent and calculating tone. Ultimately, he leaves us without knowing much about the fates of the people in which we are interested for the sake of the ones in which he clearly has a personal, and not historical, stake.
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4.4 out of 5 stars (35 customer reviews)
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