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.
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: