It was one of those random buys, again at Coliseum Books on 57th Street. It was early 1991, I believe, and I was killing time browsing around the store when I came upon a book called “The Book of Laughter and Forgetting” by Milan Kundera. At the time, I really didn’t know of him other than his book “The Unbearable Lightness of Being” and that was only because they had made a movie of it at the time. “The Book of Laughter and Forgetting” seemed interesting enough, so I picked it up and began reading it on the subway as I went home. I was hooked from the very first paragraph.
I love Kundera’s style, his effortless blend of fairy tale, literary criticism, politics, surrealism and humor. It was the first of many novels that had come out of Eastern Europe that I would eventually read. Kundera paints a simultaneous romantic and horrific portrait of his native Czechoslovakia then in the firm grip of the Soviet Union. There was an element of tragedy yet also an element of hope behind the sense of loss and the loneliness of exile. His books often delve into the complexities of human relationships and how politics and culture sometimes collide with them.
I devoured his other books, “Life is Elsewhere”, “Laughable Loves”, “The Joke”, “The Farewell Party,” “The Unbearable Lightness of Being” and “Immortality”. Each of these tales offer up something that will make you see life in a very different way and they will most definitely make you think about your place in the world and think about how complex your connections in life can be. To me, one of the greatest writers of the post-war era.