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.
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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...| Read Full Review of Identity
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.| Read Full Review of Identity
C- Originally posted May 29, 1998 Published in issue #434 May 29, 1998 Order article reprintsMay 29 1998 | Read Full Review of Identity
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