Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Ignorance by Milan Kundera

I don't envy the position Milan Kundera has put himself in. That is, I'd love to have written two brilliant novels in the 1980s, especially two as amazing as The Unbearable Lightness of Being and The Book of Laughter and Forgetting, but I'd hate to try to live up to either of those. By most accounts, Kundera hasn't come close to matching either one, and I'll have to add Ignorance to the list of novels that don't stack up.

That said, I also think Ignorance is a great novel. It doesn't have the sweeping, universal feel of Laughter, and it isn't as poignant or as eye-opening as Lightness, but it still has all of the incredible Kundera insights and ideas I've come to expect. Just because this book isn't quite as good as two of the best novels I've ever read doesn't mean it's bad. Ignorance is still leaps beyond most writers.

For this book Kundera has taken exile as a theme, and derives the title from various translations of the idea of nostalgia. This is a simple plot, and doesn't incorporate any startling devices, but the narrative is full of Wisdom. It's a good read, and it's short. Too short, I think. Because I want more. Well, I haven't read The Joke yet.

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