Friday, October 13, 2006


Immortality is a book I enjoyed very much. This seems like a cue to stick in a review I wrote long ago:
As much a conversation with the reader as a novel, Kundera obeys his own maxim "A novel should not be like a bicycle race but a feast of many courses": the plot meanders at a leisurely pace and explores ideas about the nature of immortality, human love and sexuality along the way, drawing in characters historical figures such as Goethe and Bettina, Hemingway and Dali. At the same time, the distinction between story and storyteller becomes blurred, the picture frame becoming part of the picture, as the writer enters his own story, meeting up with his characters in the final scene.

One of Kundera's greatest skills is to show the internal landscape of his characters, the very colours of their souls, and in so economical a fashion. A puppet master showing the strings, Kundera creates his main character from a gesture, with casual sleight of hand, and the main events for his story from half heard extracts of radio programmes.

There's plenty to chew over, even after finishing the book. My mind keeps coming back to the scene where Agnes imagines a stranger visiting her and asking her (in her husband's company) whether she wants to be together with him in her next incarnation in another world. The acid test for any love. She is faced with the dilemma of telling the truth and hurting Paul, or lying to save his feelings.

There are also some wonderfully quotable lines in the book and I kept finding myself reaching for a piece of paper to write down some of the best. I loved:- "Our heads are full of dreams, but our behinds drag us down like an anchor". How true!

Kundera is very good company and I enjoyed the book, but feel that The Unbearable Lightness of Being is by far the stronger novel.


dreamer idiot said...

Reading your review here, I just feel so sad, so very sad that other Malaysians like myself will be derpived of this wonderful novel... and as you mentioned in your earlier post, sadder still that apathy is the rule, or perhaps it's disillusionment, because too little can be done.

Seriously, I also wonder who are these arbiters of 'evil-influencing' books. They must have read tonnes of literature by now (more than myself, most definitely), and yet remained 'untouched' or unchanged by all they have read

Xeus said...

Sharon, there is always, which I get almost all of my banned books through.

BTW, Sharon, can you please link me? I am collecting submissions for an anthology and would like to request your help for letting as many people know as possible. Please drop by my blog.

Paulin said...

Hi Sharon. I'm glad you've shared your review of Kundera's Immortality. I bought a copy from a Payless shop months ago and have attempted to read it several times but never went past the first few pages. I find it to be such a challenging read, requiring lots of patience. Thanks to you, I'll make a more fervent try now.

animah said...

I absolutely love Immortality, one of my favourites (better than Unbearable Lightness of Being Sharon!). My copy has been appropriated by someone - Does this mean I will never find another?
I loved the way all these characters - dead and alive, real (Kundera) and fictional moved in and out of the plot. It blew my mind (this was pre-Murakami days for me) and has changed the way I viewed and enjoyed books for ever. As surreal as Immortality is, I found the characters to be so real in the ordinary everyday things they did. It portrays real people in an unreal setting. But isn't that really life?
I've not read Laughable Loves, but its in my possession as I appropriated it from someone who is now overseas. I'll read it now to figure out what's so bannable. How banal. Hee Hee. Ok, so its been a long long week.

The Great Swifty said...

As for me, I very seldom buy books in Malaysian bookshops (I did all my book shoppings in Singapore, back before I came to Perth), so the news doesn't affect me much. Ah, I've wanted to read The Unbearable Lightness of Being.

BTW: Justin had written a review for French Lieutenant's Woman. Great book. It needs more love.

bibliobibuli said...

my point is, and continues to be, that even if there's amazon, even if you can buy overseas, this is a moral issue and it shouln't be ignored ...

dreamer idiot - that's a nice bit of reasoniong, the kdn guys can't have read these books or they would have been changed by them. if they are n;t changed, they haven't read them, therefore they have no right to ban them.

hi paulin. it isn't the easiest of reads and maybe you have to be int he mood for it. i loved "unbearable lightness of being" and if you haven't read that yet, start there.

xeus - yes, will put up that post. great idea btw!

swifty - will drop by and read it. thanks.

Lotus Reads said...

Beautiful review, Sharon, you really do make me want to read the book. I remember 'The Unbearable Lightness of Being' so well, I must have been all of 18 when I first read it and my friends and I would stay up all night talking about it, that and the Hermann Hesse novel, 'Siddhartha'. Such a pity about "Immortality" being banned in Malaysia.