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Kundera, Milan

life post partly conflict

(Czech, 1929– )

Born in Brno, Kundera taught at the Institute for Advanced Cinematographic Studies in Prague, before losing the post and emigrating after the Russian invasion of 1968. The Book of Laughter and Forgetting (1979) is an evocation of the cultural, political, and sexual life of post-war Europe, seen partly through Kundera's own eyes, partly through those of his fictional inventions. His most famous novel, The Unbearable Lightness of Being (1984), is set in Czechoslovakia after the 1968 Soviet invasion and follows the incurable philandering of Tomas, a distinguished Prague surgeon, his struggle to settle down with Tereza, a bartender, and his conflict with the Party authorities. Among the novel's many themes are the desolate nature of life within a totalitarian state, the metaphysical conflict between body and soul, and the ultimate sense of weightlessness that afflicts us when we confront the meaninglessness of life. Motifs are interwoven like musical phrases in symphony, and though many of them were inevitably lost in Philip Kaufman's film adaptation (staring Daniel Day Lewis and Juliet Binoche), much of the book's tragic atmosphere remains.

Robert M. Pirsig, Isabel Allende, Ben Okri. See MAGIC REALISM  RP

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