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Ignorance Paperback – 4 Sep 2003
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"Milan's Kundera's resonant new novel IGNORANCE ....[is] wonderfully nuanced .... affecting."--Michiko Kakutani, New York Times
Ignorance by Milan Kundera is a literary masterpiece set in contemporary Prague, from the hugely acclaimed Czech novelist and author of The Unbearable Lightness of Being.See all Product description
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Top customer reviews
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.
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 ?
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.
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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a bit disappointed
While it's true that the novels Kundera wrote in Czech are his best, this is still a beautiful...Read more