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(05/01/2008) The Farewell Party by Milan Kundera. New York. 1976. Knopf. Translated From The Czech By Peter Kussi. keywords: Literature Translated Czech Eastern Europe. 213 pages. Jacket design by Lidia Ferrara. Jacket illustration by Charles Shields. 0394496604. September 1976.

An early novel from Milan Kundera.

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

   With the international publication of THE JOKE, LIFE IS ELSEWHERE, and LAUGHABLE LOVES, Czechoslovakia's foremost contemporary writer has won world recognition--admired by Jean Paul Sartre, Philip Roth, and Louis Aragon, among others. His new novel--already a critical triumph in France--comically, chillingly, enters the peaceful, self-contained world of a fertility spa, where a compelling psychological drama unfolds in the span of five days. A telephone call announcing an unwanted pregnancy intrudes with the sound of doom into the life of Klima, famous jazz trumpeter and incurable philanderer whose 'erotic secret' is his hopeless love for his wife Out of the would-be-forgotten past, the call sends him hastily back to the small spa where two months before, entertaining there with his band, he met and spent the night with a pretty young nurse, Ruzena. As he proceeds--according to a plan carefully based on 'the only reasonably certain element in the entire affair: the girl's love'--to 'lovingly' persuade her to abort the child, and as Ruzena vacillates between faith and suspicion, meek compliance and mulish refusal, other lives are drawn into their delicate conflict. Brilliantly, Kundera gives us a constellation of characters whose destinies become fatefully intertwined: Klima's beautiful wife and Ruzena's infatuated boyfriend, who 'sweep into the story like two rockets steered by blind jealousy--if that can be called steering'; the spa's own Dr. Skreta, cheerfully 'curing' his childless patients with injections from his private sperm-bank that populate the region with little Skretas; Bartleff, the mysterious and saintlike American millionaire; Jakub, the persecuted political dissident whose path briefly crosses Ruzena's, who sees in her the image of all that is corrupting his country, and who places her life in peril, giving Fate an ever-present deadly weapon to use--or not. As the story moves toward its denouement, as souls are humorously, ironically, terribly revealed, the unsparing clarity of Kundera's insight and the suspense of his narration powerfully illuminate the fearful ambiguity at the core of human life, and the intricate strategies we live by.

 

 

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