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The Book of Laughter and Forgetting

3.99  ·  Rating details ·  42,049 ratings  ·  2,095 reviews
Rich in its stories, characters, and imaginative range, The Book of Laughter and Forgetting is the novel that brought Milan Kundera his first big international success in the late 1970's. Like all his work, it is valuable for far more than just its historical implications. In seven wonderfully integrated parts, different aspects of human existence are magnified and reduced ...more
Paperback, 313 pages
Published May 1st 1999 by HarperPerennial Modern Classics (first published 1979)
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“He was well aware that of the two or three thousand times he had made love (how many times had he made love in his life?) only two or three were really essential and unforgettable. The rest were mere echoes, imitations, repetitions, or reminiscences.”

Ah, the endlessly quotable Kundera. I had to hold myself back from updating my status every other page; there were just so many perfectly composed sentences I wanted to share with you, goodreaders. Sometimes that’s all it takes to win me over, a st
Ahmad Sharabiani
(294 From 1001 Books) - Kniha Smíchu a Zapomnění = The Book of Laughter And Forgetting, Milan Kundera

The Book of Laughter and Forgetting is a novel by Milan Kundera, published in France in 1979. It is composed of seven separate narratives united by some common themes. The book considers the nature of forgetting as it occurs in history, politics and life in general.

The stories also contain elements found in the genre of magic realism. Plot summary: Part One: Lost Letters. Part Two: Mama. Part Th
Oct 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Just like you've gotta travel to the city of Prague in the Czech Republic to feel it's overpoweringly Wonderland-esque vibe, you must read this novel. Can't tell you about it, you just have to do it yourself. Its bonkers-brilliant! Phantasmagoric originality like this--a virtual valentine full of passions submerged & portends of an oversoul/celestial awareness to that fantastic aforementioned European city--comes very seldom in a reader's so-sweet life. You won't truly forget The Book of Laughte ...more
Mutasim Billah
Oct 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: politics, favorites, czech
“The struggle of man against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting”

The Book of Laughter and Forgetting is one of the most interesting novels I've ever read, mostly due to its structure. The book is written in seven parts, each part comprising of a story written from multiple perspectives. Some of the central themes of each story are derived from semi-autobiographical accounts of Kundera's days as a political exile. Each story is vaguely connected to each other like small threads tha
Steven Godin
A few years ago I was simply blown away by my first encounter with Milan Kundera's work. That was the brilliantly inventive 'Immortality', but I never got to follow it up with anything else, until now. This novel, if one can call it that, is a collection of seven vignettes about characters in Communist Europe during the era of Russian occupation. Kundera embrace politics, sex, philosophy and history, with a seen-it-all cynicism that nevertheless manages to be fascinating and even uplifting. And ...more
Aug 11, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Ask any Kundera fan which book of his is their favorite, and the answer will inevitably be the first book of his that they read. His unique writing style comes as a revelation at first, but unfortunately can grow irritating the more books of his one reads. "The Book of Laughter and Forgetting" is the first one I read, and it holds a special place in my reading history as the one book that I instantly began re-reading as soon as I finished it. If you haven't read Kundera, I would recommend this o ...more
Violet wells
Feb 18, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: faves
Safe to say Kundera isn't the favourite writer of many feminists. His male characters tend to be hedonistic womanisers who have a tendency to exonerate their egotistic behaviour by positing sexual dichotomies and generalisations. This kind of thing: "For he was aware of the great secret of life: Women don't look for handsome men. Women look for men who have had beautiful women. Having an ugly mistress is therefore a fatal mistake." Now this isn't by any stretch of the imagination a "great secret ...more
Mar 21, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics
Das Buch vom Lachen und Vergessen" by Milan Kundera is a novel consisting of Seven Short Stories. gradually does one come to the conclusion that all stories together make a big whole. A look that is worthwhile, of course. In grandiose, exceedingly intelligent stories Kundera describes with a lot of wit about the different meanings of laughter and oblivion, love and eroticism, politics and homeland.
The fifth short story is titled Litost:
Litost is a Czech term that describes another important topi
Oct 15, 2009 rated it liked it
It was funny, but I can't remember why.

[This is actually true, sad to tell]
Sidharth Vardhan

“...because love is continual interrogation. I don't know of a better definition of love.”

This won’t be the Kundera book I would recommend to a reader new to him. Not that it is bad – it still has all the interesting psychology (he dislikes the word), philosophy (he dislikes that too) and sex (… Well, he is a man.); the trouble with this book is it is too much into Kunderism. The good thing about him is he never beats around the bush. It is as if he knows what he has show and only tel
What is a novel? Or perhaps that question should be, what is a novel for you? Is it a story? Does it have to have a dramatic arc? That’s pretty much what most of us think of when we think of novels. The story could be wholly plot-driven like The Da Vinci Code. It could be character-driven (e.g., Sense and Sensibility). Or it could simply an account of someone’s day (Mrs Dalloway). It could be written as straight-forward narrative (e.g., Madam Bovary) or play with form and structure (e.g., Ulysse ...more
Apr 28, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: literary-fiction
2012 view: Kundera (originally writing in French) puts together tales of Czech citizens opposing the communist regime using an unusual mixture of novel, short story collection and musings. As ever a great piece of work by Kundera, although a bit too literary / high falutin' at times in my opinion. 7 out of 12

2011 view: This work by Milan Kundera, published in 1979 is composed of seven separate narratives united by some common themes. The book considers the nature of forgetting as it occurs in hi
Ian "Marvin" Graye

No Memories of Merriment: Milan Kundera in Heideggerian Mode

"A novel examines not reality but existence. And existence is not what has occurred, existence is the realm of human possibilities, everything that man can become, everything he's capable of. Novelists draw up the map of existence by discovering this or that human possibility. But again, to exist means: 'being-in-the-world'. Thus both the character and his world must be understood as possibilities."

"Love's absolute is actually a
☘Misericordia☘ ⚡ϟ⚡⛈⚡☁ ❇️❤❣
A lot of random ramblings with way too many irrelevant things mixed into a barely comprehensble smth. Way too much political stuff on the author's mind to write a something, anything, engaging, I guess.

DNF. Don't think I'll be back. Drat, I shouldn't have wasted my time reading it after all. Drat. I could do without the nasty imagery this left in my mind. Drat. I think this could be one of the worst reads of the year. Of several years, in fact.

I'm pretty sure some people might love it, actually.
Apr 22, 2014 rated it really liked it
Brilliant in parts, but also messy and uneven. It is a twisting novel of lovers, sex, names, poets, politics, borders, history, memory, nations and being. It slides from one original idea into another like remote lovers in a well lubricated orgy of ideas. I don't know if it loses me because I loved The Unbearable Lightness of Being so much more, or if Kundera just failed to grab me by the intellectual shorthairs. I'm almost positive I would probably rate it higher if I had the chance to tease ou ...more
Such a unique writer, Kundera! What a way he has to shine the brightest light on the deepest corners of human psyche! What's really impressive, though, is the fact that he combines human every-day behavior with historical facts. The connection between those two is for the reader to make.

What some readers may find annoying, is the fact that Kundera is rather interventional when it comes to his characters. He doesn't hesitate not only to talk about himself, but also analyze his theories. Me, I do
Jan 24, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: audiobook, fiction
One of the characters in this book says that he intends to write a book about politics and love. And, that is exactly what this is; a book about politics and love. The style of writing is quite different from most other novels; there is not much dialog, mostly narration. And, at least once the author speaks directly to the reader about the book. He describes how Beethoven first popularized the musical form "theme and variations", and that this book is based on the same form. It is built on seven ...more
Ivana Books Are Magic
Mar 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing
The book of Laughter and Forgetting is a book that has absolutely enchanted me. I remember reading it on a beach and thinking how it was somehow appropriate to read it there. Many subjects in this book are timeless. The vastness of the sea seems a good metaphor for this book. I can still remember how it felt, reading this wonderful novel on a hot summer day that seemed to last forever. I still remember the lessons it had to teach, a strange mix of sadness and happiness it stirred in me. It made ...more
Feb 04, 2009 rated it did not like it
Weird, weird, weird. Was hoping for quality since it was an international best seller, and who knows, maybe it was just too high-brow for me, but I didn't enjoy it. It concentrates on how communism makes people lose their humanity and become just desire-less, shallow, and brain dead. There are a lot of really uncomfortable sex scenes involving children and others in which the act is just humorous and emotion-less, not even erotic just mechanical but not for the usual reasons of boredom with a pa ...more
Brendan Monroe
Oct 13, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This book just reiterates why Milan Kundera is one of my favorite writers. He writes in a way so few writers can — only Italo Calvino, Salman Rushdie, Umberto Eco, and Gabriel Garcia Marquez come to mind — and reading his words makes you forget whether you're reading a book or dreaming, so fantastical is the quality of his work.

Other than being an absolute joy to read, 'The Book of Laughter and Forgetting' deals with such heavy topics as totalitarianism, individuality, and, as always when readin
L.S. Popovich
Jan 18, 2020 rated it it was ok
Shelves: czech, 2020, 2-star
I didn't laugh. And it was quickly forgotten.

Kundera knew how to write. (I speak in the past tense because he is now 90 years old and I wonder how much writing he's doing nowadays.) But he chose to write about things I find it very hard to care about. In this, more than in Unbearable Lightness, he glorifies sex frequently as a rite of passage, and goes on at great length about its incredible significance. The characters are all so literary. So avant-garde, and in this day and age, cliched. There
Khashayar Mohammadi
Jun 18, 2014 rated it really liked it
Kundera was my first ever literary hero. He was the very first writer I actively sought and worshiped. His titanic stature in my adolescence made me reluctant to re-read his works as an adult, and I gotta admit re-reading this book in my twenties was a strange experience. I'm still enchanted by his unparalleled psychological incisiveness and para-philosophical escapades, but I just don't find him to be the behemoth he once was in my eyes.

Having read this a second time, I'm more confused than imp
Mar 03, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Too Much Authorial Touching

3.5 stars. I'm aware this is a philosophical novel of ideas that significantly and laudably criticized the Czech communist regime then in power and resulted in that government's revoking Kundera's citizenship.

Nonetheless, I cannot in good conscience give a novel 4 or 5 stars on that basis when I dislike the type of author interactivity in a work of fiction that pervades this "novel." That is to say, I have a hard time reading as a story, i.e., enjoying or being vivifie
Ravi Gangwani
Jun 24, 2016 rated it it was amazing
"The struggle of man against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting."

“The stupidity of people comes from having an answer for everything. The wisdom of the novel comes from having a question for everything....The novelist teaches the reader to comprehend the world as a question. There is wisdom and tolerance in that attitude. In a world built on sacrosanct certainties the novel is dead. The totalitarian world, whether founded on Marx, Islam, or anything else, is a world of answers ra
Dec 25, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: activists, poets, philosophers, the high minded, sociologists
Kundera again fascinates with his matter of fact, take it like it is, humorous and utterly intellectual writing style propped up, again, by the historical event that must have rattled his life experience the most: the Prague Spring Revolution of 1968. I love this book. It is thought provoking, humorous and at times arousingly-erotic. These facts fail to impede the authors ability to carry a dead serious undercurrent important to the overall experience he seeks to share in this narrative. Kundera ...more
K.D. Absolutely
May 04, 2010 rated it liked it
Recommended to K.D. by: 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die (2006-2010)
Shelves: 1001-core
I am sure that Milan Kundera (born 1929) will someday get his Nobel prize for literature. This is my 2nd book by him and he still amused me with his Nietzsche-inspired style of writing. This book, A Book of Laughter and Forgetting in some ways foreshadows his most popular work, my first read of him, The Unbearable Lightness of Being. I prefer Unbearable though because it has one plot and one or maybe two themes: that people belong to either lightness or heaviness and that we are living in an inf ...more
Aug 26, 2007 added it
Shelves: peteredout
I don't get it. Why all the hype? I found the characters and their situations absolutely uncompelling. I felt like I was reading a movie treatment, a sketch for a scenario. Flat, jejune. And aside from the opening image of the borrowed hat and it's disgraced, airbrushed-out lender, I found very little that was striking or poetic in the prose itself. I'm a huge fan of Kundera's non-fiction (especially Testaments Betrayed, a lyrically erudite book, with an elucidating defense of Kafka from Brod-is ...more
Inderjit Sanghera
Apr 14, 2013 rated it it was ok
Although I enjoyed 'The Unbearable Lightness of Being' I think 'The Book of Laughter and Forgetting' is a forgettable novel, bloated with page upon page of elephantine platitudes, banal sex scenes and forgettable characters devoid of any personality beyond the misanthropy which surrounds them; Kundera's characters function as mannequins for him to wrap his disconsolate opinions on, 'The Book of Laughter and Forgetting' attempt so be a kind of daring expostulation of the human condition but turns ...more
Farhan Khalid
This book is a novel in the form of variations

The various parts follow each other like the various stages of a voyage leading into the interior of a thought, interior of a single, unique situation

Struggle of man

The struggle of man against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting


His connection to his life was that of a sculptor to his statue or a novelist to his novel. It is an inviolable right of a novelist to rework his novel. If the opening does not please him, he can rewr
Jun 25, 2007 rated it liked it
The first time an angel heard the devil’s laughter, he was dumbfounded. That happened at a feast in a crowded room, where the devil’s laughter, which is terribly contagious, spread from one person to another. The angel clearly understood that such laughter was directed against God and against the dignity of His works. He knew that he must react swiftly somehow, but felt weak and defenseless. Unable to come up with anything of his own, he aped adversary. Opening his mouth, he emitted broken, spas ...more
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Milan Kundera is a Czech and French writer of Czech origin who has lived in exile in France since 1975, where he became a naturalized French citizen in 1981. He is best known for The Unbearable Lightness of Being, The Book of Laughter and Forgetting, and The Joke.

Kundera has written in both Czech and French. He revises the French translations of all his books; these therefore are not considered tr

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“Oh lovers! be careful in those dangerous first days! once you've brought breakfast in bed you'll have to bring it forever, unless you want to be accused of lovelessness and betrayal.” 508 likes
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