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This breathtaking, reverberating survey of human nature finds Kundera still attempting to work out the meaning of life without losing his acute sense of humour. It is one of those great unclassifiable masterpieces that appear once every twenty years or so.
'It will make you cleverer, maybe even a better lover. Not many novels can do that.' Nicholas Lezard, GQ
Death and immortality are the interlocking themes of the author's first novel since his 1984 bestseller, The Unbearable Lightness of Being. Kundera, himself a prominent character in the circular narrative, here contrasts the troubled, comic relationships among Goethe; his wife, Christiane; and Goethe's much younger friend Bettina von Arnim to the modern-day triangle of three imaginary Parisians: Paul; his wife, Agnes; and Agnes's sister Laura. In response to her father's death, Agnes confronts her own life and discovers that while her marriage has been happy, she has never known passion; Laura, a divorcee, has never experienced the love that goes beyond sex. The object of both sisters' affections is Paul and it becomes clear that their struggle over him will result in a victor and a loser. Kundera offers brilliant meditations on late-20th-century life, but the novel, combining essays, narrative and biographical material, lacks the dramatic tension of his earlier works. Nevertheless his astute observations on topics ranging from the media to Ernest Hemingway in themselves render this work interesting and significant. 100,000 first printing; $100,000 ad/promo; BOMC selection; first serial to the New Yorker.