Life is Elsewhere Paperback – 4 Sep 2000
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"Tender and unsparing..."Life Is Elsewhere is a remarkable portrait of an artist as a young man."--"Newsweek"I will say no more about this lacerating book except to urge it upon all who care about literature in our difficult era."--"Boston Globe"A sly and merciless lampoon of revolutionary romanticism...Kundera commits some of the funniest literary savaging since Evelyn Waugh polished off Dickens in "A Handful of Dust."--"Time
Life is Elsewhere by Milan Kundera is an intriguing early novel 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
Of course there is no reason why literature featuring flawed or dislikable characters can't still be excellent, but I have to flag my own bias here. How can I recommend a book whose characters I find more irritating than engaging or thought-provoking?
'Life Is Elsewhere' returned me to this difficult position. The book focuses primarily on a young poet, Jaromil, and his changing relationships to society, art and women (particularly his mother). In the beginning he is a potential poet-prodigy bursting with talent and enthusiasm. This Jaromil I grew quite fond of. He reminded me of a character Hermann Hesse might create.
But as the book progresses, Jaromil makes many questionable choices motivated by pettiness, jealousy and insecurity. He moves from the dream-like and aspirational world of the poet to the cruel, "real" world of power and politics. I won't reveal anything more on the book's arc other than to say that in the end Jaromil had become someone that I hated, and I found this transition dispiriting. (No doubt Kundera's intention.)
Kundera is at his best when he digresses from the plot to follow historical anecdotes or philosophical musings. His prose can flow beautifully, which render his ambitious pronouncements on the nature of humankind as intoxicating as they fantastic. Some of his observations of the dynamics between mother and son were brilliant.
This is an engaging and well-constructed novel that perhaps deserves four stars - but Jaromil's lapse into pettiness still leaves a bitter taste in my mouth that pushes me towards three. What a shame there are no half-stars to be had. Still worth your time.
Kundera's protagonists are not unsympathetic at all, but nor do they invite quick and simple identification and empathy. They are portrayed in all their complexity, ambivalence and looming madness. The book has several unexpected and throughly convincing turns and Kundera's weaving of incidents and stories from different poets (most of whom died young) in his narrative is very skillful.
A wonderful novel then, though one that yields its secrets slowly to the patient reader.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This book was recommended to me by a friend of mine, and I am glad he did. It's beautifully written, and the story is surprisingly interesting.Published 4 months ago by Farrah
This is a savage, violent book. It demands the reader to constantly analyse himself and confess his own closeness to a number of the misdemenours of the main protagonist, Jaromil... Read morePublished on 16 Aug. 2011 by D. Gwynne
Milan Kundera is an author whose style is so unique and idiosyncratic that you will either love him or hate him. I am firmly in the first category. Read morePublished on 14 Mar. 2007 by Sam J. Ruddock
LIE is about a poet who is spoilt, infantile and ultimatly a failure. Set against a back-drop of communist Czechoslovakia our (anti? Read morePublished on 28 Jan. 2003 by Alex Magpie
Here Kundera uses the historical setting of the Communist "pseudo-revolution" ("imported from Russia, and carried out under the protection of the Police and the... Read morePublished on 27 May 2001 by T. BRANNEY
Kundera tells the story of a young man whose immaturity makes him almost socially dysfunctional. The main character tries desperately to get a life by trying to show an... Read morePublished on 25 Aug. 2000