LisaRose's Reviews > Identity

Identity by Milan Kundera
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's review
Feb 28, 2009

it was ok
bookshelves: fiction
Read in March, 2009

** spoiler alert ** After much circumlocution and endless iterations of reason, we finally arrive at the novel's climax only to find that it has been a dream. A dream! Teased along by a dream sequence a la, Who Shot JR?

I am insulted.

Certainly, there were some fine moments:

Chantal thinks: men have daddified themselves. They aren't fathers, they're just daddies, which means: fathers without a father's authority. She imagines trying to flirt with a daddy pusing a stroller with on baby inside it and carrying another two babies on his back and belly. Taking advantage of a moment when the wife stopped at a shop windoe, she would whisper an invitation to the husband. What would he do? Could the man transformed into a baby-tree still turn to look at a strange woman? Wouldn't the babies hanging off his back and his belly start howling about their carrier's disturbing movement? The idea strikes Chantal funny and puts her in a good mood. She thinks to herself: I live in a world where men will never turn to look at me again.

However, Chantal's underlying ethos is her pettiness. So selfish is she, that she is unwilling to share her menopausal symptoms with her lover Jean-Marc, who, enmeshed in his own life of triviality/banality, fails to notice her hot flashes for what they are.

Neither Chantal nor Jean-Marc seem willing to share the true intimacy of their hearts despite being long-time lovers. They are sad foils for each other in an ultimately unsatisfying novel.

Jean-Marc sums my feelings about the novel best:

See, I was right, it wasn't a fake claim, I really am who I am, a marginal person, homeless, a bum.


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Comments (showing 1-4 of 4) (4 new)

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Aleks I am sorry you feel cheated by the ending. It was worth it to me, just for the intricacies of the relationship between the two lovers.

LisaRose But the relationship had no true intricacies. It was carried on in their respective heads, within themselves. There was so very little true relating to each other.

Chantal underwent permutation after permutation based on what she thought, perhaps Jean-Marc might want of her, only to discover the dissatisfaction of reinventing herself for another. And milquetoast Jean-Marc - content to be her doormat forever until the climax of the dream - only shows evidence of his balls when he scorns his dying friend. Just what was that vignette about? To magnify his sorry, irrelevant existence?

Dunno. Maybe this was Kundera's position on the insignificance/transiency of romantic relationships. Lots of heavy imagery of birth and death and life cycles.


Aleks Well, it might be Kundera being all symbolic, but I chose to view it as an abject lesson in what happens when you don't communicate on a basic level with those closest to you. I've seen that happen too many times between men and women.

LisaRose I can dig your point.

There are several levels of relationship going on, with the one which should be most meaningful being the most hollow. The fantasized bonds wax and wane in this codependent interplay as Jean-Marc realizes he is worthless without Chantal and she concludes she is worthless. Period. Then there's that infernal dream with its beastiality, orgiasts, and the like...


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