“She makes love wildly, lasciviously, and at the same time the curtain of oblivion wraps her lewdness in an all-concealing darkness. As if a poet were writing his greatest poem with ink that instantly disappears.”
Kundera waxes poetically with an economy of words that is simply marvellous. Here two émigrés return to the Czech Republic after an absence of more than 20 years.
A chance encounter, for the woman, with the one that got away. For the man, a strange encounter with a ghost from the past that he no longer remembers, and that momentarily frees his mind from the frosty reception of reunions with relatives and the haunting circumstances of losing a loved one. Originally written in French, the novel is a translation and yet eminently quotable and beautifully delivered.
There is an all pervasive sense of honesty in the writing. We all create our own narrative of love and life. It is rarely mirrored by the other players. Sometimes I feel that the disconnect between those stories is a divide that will never be bridged and that the notion of a truly shared experience is a nonsense. I am perhaps a little bitter and twisted, that is one reason why I loved this sad and reflective novel. The only sense of freedom and joy within the novel is brief and between the sheets. Only in the harsh light of day and the realisation that each party had a completely different agenda, does the tale reach its unfortunate anticlimax.
Memories are an unreliable narrator, for they are coloured by our own fears and desires. The notion of home and returning home, referencing the journey of Odysseus, is prevalent here and it is an intriguing one. We remember the place that shaped our youth and yet, should we move away, we grow apart and change with our surrounds. Yet, housed deeply within us, is that notion of home which bring a strange pull. That being said the idea is often vastly different from the reality, as the home of our youth, or in this case that of the two protagonists, has undergone significant change. Time only stops still in memory.
5 out of 5 a speedy delight and one more tick on my 1001 novel journey.