Identity by Milan Kundera

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Milan Kundera's Identity  translated from the French by Linda Asher.

There are situations in which we fail for a moment to recognize the person we are with, in which the identity of the other is erased while we simultaneously doubt our own. That also happens with couples -- indeed, above all with couples, because lovers fear more than anything else "losing sight" of the loved one.

With stunning artfulness in expanding and playing variations on the meaningful moment, Milan Kundera has made this situation -- and the vague sense of panic it inspires -- the very fabric of his new novel. Here brevity goes hand in hand with intensity, and a moment of bewilderment marks the start of a labyrinthine journey during which the reader repeatedly crosses the border between the real and the unreal, between what occurs in the world outside and what the mind creates in its solitude.

Of all contemporary writers, only Kundera can transform such a hidden and disconcerting perception into the material for a novel, one of his finest, most painful, and most enlightening. Which, surprisingly, turns out to be a love story.


About Milan Kundera

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One of the foremost contemporary Czech writers, Kundera is a novelist, poet, and playwright. His play The Keeper of the Keys, produced in Czechoslovakia in 1962, has long been performed in a dozen countries. His first novel, The Joke (1967), is a biting satire on the political atmosphere in Czechoslovakia in the 1950s. It tells the story of a young Communist whose life is ruined because of a minor indiscretion: writing a postcard to his girlfriend in which he mocks her political fervor.The Joke has been translated into a dozen languages and was made into a film, which Kundera wrote and directed. His novel Life Is Elsewhere won the 1973 Prix de Medicis for the best foreign novel. Kundera has been living in France since 1975. His books, for a long time suppressed in his native country, are once again published.The Unbearable Lightness of Being (1984), won him international fame and was a successful English-language film. In this work Kundera moves toward more universal and philosophically tinged themes, thus transforming himself from a political dissident into a writer of international significance.
Published January 1, 1998 by Harpercollins.
Genres: Literature & Fiction. Fiction

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Kirkus Reviews

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His identity is soon revealed (and, in any case, isn’t much of a secret) to us, though not to Chantal, who nevertheless becomes persuaded “that she has been living locked away by love, as Jean-Marc realizes “that his deepest vocation is to be a marginal person” excluded from the totality of his m...

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Publishers Weekly

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His new novel lacks a certain vitality, however, perhaps because, torn from any historical or political context, Kundera's metaphysical musings aren't very engaging, or perhaps because the book lacks the ironic edge that Kundera's admirers have come to expect.

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Entertainment Weekly

C- Originally posted May 29, 1998 Published in issue #434 May 29, 1998 Order article reprints

May 29 1998 | Read Full Review of Identity

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