A man and a woman meet by chance while returning to their homeland, which they had abandoned twenty years earlier when they chose to become exiles. Will they manage to pick up the thread of their strange love story, interrupted almost as soon as it began and then lost in the tides of history? The truth is that after such a long absence "their memories no longer match." We always believe that our memories coincide with those of the person we loved, that we experienced the same thing. But this is just an illusion. Then again, what can we expect of our weak memory? It records only "an insignificant, minuscule particle" of the past, "and no one knows why it's this bit and not any other bit." We live our lives sunk in a vast forgetting, a fact we refuse to recognize. Only those who return after twenty years, like Odysseus returning to his native Ithaca, can be dazzled and astounded by observing the goddess of ignorance firsthand.
Milan Kundera is the only author today who can take such dizzying concepts as absence, memory, forgetting, and ignorance, and transform them into material for a novel, masterfully orchestrating them into a polyphonic and moving work.
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Bypassing the question of whether you can ever go home again, Milan Kundera's Ignorance tackles instead what happens when you actually get there. Ignorance is the story of two Czechs who meet by chance while traveling back to their homeland after 20 years in exile. Irena, who fled the country in 1968 with her now-deceased husband Martin, returns to Prague only to find coldness and indifference on the part of her former friends. Josef, who emigrated after the Russian invasion, is back in Prague to fulfill a wish of his beloved late wife. As fate would have it, the two have met before in their former lives, and the before-skirted passionate encounter is now destined to transpire. However, as in the story of Odysseus, which this novel so deliberately parallels, every homecoming brings with it a conflicting set of emotions so powerful that one has to question whether the voyage is really worth the pain. Expertly tackling the philosophical and emotional themes of nostalgia, memory, love, loss, and endurance, Kundera continues to astound readers with his masterful ability to understand and articulate issues so central to the human condition. --Gisele TouegAbout the Author:
The Franco-Czech novelist Milan Kundera was born in Brno and has lived in France, his second homeland, for more than twenty years.
He is the author of the novels The Joke, Life Is Elsewhere, The Farewell Party, The Books of Laughter and Forgetting, The Unbearable Lightness of Being, and Immortality, and the short story collection Laughable Loves--all originally written in Czech.
Like Slowness, his two earlier nonfiction works, The Art of the Novel and Testaments Betrayed, were originally written in French.
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