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Slowness

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3.64  ·  Rating details ·  16,047 ratings  ·  1,106 reviews
Milan Kundera's lightest novel, a divertimento, an opera buffa, Slowness is also the first of this author's fictional works to have been written in French.

Disconcerted and enchanted, the reader follows the narrator of Slowness through a midsummer's night in which two tales of seduction, separated by more than two hundred years, interweave and oscillate between the sublime
...more
Paperback, 156 pages
Published April 11th 1997 by Harper Perennial (first published January 12th 1995)
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Average rating 3.64  · 
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Ahmad Sharabiani
La lenteur = Slowness, Milan Kundera

Slowness, published in 1995 in France, is a novel written in French by Milan Kundera.

In the book, Kundera manages to weave together a number of plot lines, characters and themes in just over 150 pages. While the book has a narrative, it mainly serves as a way for Kundera to describe a philosophy about modernity, technology, memory and sensuality.

The novel is a meditation on the effects of modernity upon the individual's perception of the world. It is told thr
...more
Mutasim Billah
Jan 31, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: czech
"The degree of slowness is directionally proportional to the intensity of memory. The degree of speed is directionally proportional to the intensity of forgetting."

Slowness is a tale of modernity and sensuality. In this book, Kundera brings about a theory of the dancer, an idea where the dancer, his movements, his gestures and his interactions with the audience are susceptible to change in different perceptive environments. The book makes a nod towards Vivant Denon's No Tomorrow by borrowing
...more
Jim Fonseca
Dec 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
I was expecting a novel but this book is as much an essay or a work of philosophy given a bit of plot to move it along. It blends two stories of seduction in totally different time frames, one modern, one historic, with twists of irony and comedy. (The blurbs say two ‘love stories' but I don’t agree that a male professor struggling to pick up a female grad student at an academic conference is a love story. lol) The historic romance is that told in Les Liaisons Dangereuses by Choderlos de Laclos, ...more
Steven Godin

Slowness opens with the driving of a car, whilst a motorcyclist is trying to overtake that car, but immediately my thoughts were honing in on just how long its going to take before Kundera introduces lovemaking into the narrative, or if not that, then a reference to lovemaking, or at least a reference to a woman's body, from the male perspective of course. It didn't take long - page two in fact. One minute we're taking a nice jolly ride to a Château, and then before you know it the driver of the
...more
Riku Sayuj
Leisure for Sale; Pleasure for Sale

or

The Non-Existent Choice


There is a secret bond between slowness and memory, between speed and forgetting.

Spoiler Alert: (view spoiler)

An author is reading an old book, while on vacation to the very spot in which that old book is set. He gets an idea of a modern version of the book (or is it mere
...more
Algernon (Darth Anyan)
Sep 02, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2013

There is a secret bond between slowness and memory, between speed and forgetting. Consider this utterly commonplace situation: a man is walking down the street. At a certain moment, he tries to recall something, but the recollection escapes him. Automatically, he slows down. Meanwhile, a person who wants to forget a disagreeable incident he has just lived through starts unconsciously to speed up his space, as if he were trying to distance himself from a thing still too close to him in time.
In
...more
d4
Oct 09, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: read-in-2010
I probably shouldn't have read a book titled Slowness so quickly. ...more
Seemita
Feb 27, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorites
UNHURRIED DANCE

“Nothing in this novel stays a secret exclusive to two persons; everyone seems to live inside an enormous resonating seashell where every whispered word reverberates, swells, into multiple and unending echoes.”
Holding aloft this premise, Kundera draws four parallel nights of sensuality and lust, where, four stories come together to explore (and explode) the boundaries of pleasure, fidelity, esteem and memory. The story opens with the author visiting a chateau for
...more
Jason
Aug 13, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: own
An amuse bouche of philosophy / a thought exercise on pleasure and cultural pacing all wrapped up in multi-layer, era-splitting sexual rendezvous.

Dancers take the stage wanting to be seen, to perform for the vast unseen audience, they do not experience the moment for the themselves, they are on display. Rushing ahead to perform, to play a role, to gain the moral advantage. No pause can be sacrificed, no time to ponder or think, to savor or languish, the show must go on. This moment shall lapse
...more
Alina
Aug 03, 2007 rated it liked it
Re-read this book the other day. Much better than the first time around. I still wish that Kundera had developed his first person story a little more, but I suppose that wasn't the point.

My favorite scene in the novel was that of the Czech entomologist caught up in an emotional state so far that he doesn't remember to deliver his paper at the conference. It is simultaneously hilarious and heart breaking. I felt my face turn red with his when he, 15 minutes after the fact, finally realized his e
...more
Luís
The narrative hook of this book had little effect on me. This is neither an essay nor a novel. The three nested stories got me a bit lost. The only interesting thing that I will take away from this book is the proposed description of the link between slowness and memory, between speed and forgetting. The conclusion of this philosophical reflection taking the form of the following axiom: the degree of slowness is directly proportional to the intensity of memory; the degree of speed is directly pr ...more
notgettingenough
Jun 03, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: humour, french, modern-lit
This isn't:

Just no.

It's more like:

NOOOOOOOOOooooooooooooooooooooo.

I'm sorry Kundera. I don't know if we are going to meet again, but the bridge-player in me isn't liking the odds.

------------------------------
A few months later: it turns out there is more to this story.

I wrote that in June, and put the book on the hall table ready to give to my local secondhand bookshop. I know, I felt sort of bad about that. It’s a lovely bookshop and deserves better.

My mother at the age of 81 is an entirely vo
...more
Mohit Parikh
Dec 15, 2012 rated it liked it
What the author cannot be accused here of is shoveling down half-formed, floating philosophies. One of them:
"In existential mathematics...two basic equations: the degree of slowness is directly proportion to the intensity of memory; the degree of speed is directly proportional to the intensity of forgetting."
He falls short; and that is because the intention is not to convince. The intention is to tantalize. Seduce. Play with your pride, redden your cheeks, lure you in then catch you unawares. If
...more
Amanda
Feb 27, 2008 rated it it was ok
For those who've read other Kundera works, I felt this was an abrupt introduction to his style. Perhaps other felt otherwise (anyone?), but I didn't feel there was anything in Slowness that Kundera did not present in much eloquent, effective way in his other books. Rather, I found Slowness too much a touch too vulgar and misogynistic.

High points:

"An ode to sensuous leisure, to the enjoyment of pleasure rather than just the search for it."
- This was actually a review on the back cover. But it'
...more
April
Jul 16, 2011 rated it it was amazing
As with every book by Kundera, I finished it and was stunned. I never really know where to begin with his books. I love them, that's for sure, and he's one of my favorite writers, but he touches upon so many things in each book that I always feel that I missed something! The beauty of Kundera's writing is the way he portrays the human psyche. I haven't read too many writers that do such a fantastic job of defining a character's thoughts as he does. What I really enjoyed about Slowness is that it ...more
James Henderson
What has become of "slowness" in a world that is growing smaller and moving ever faster? In this short novel Milan Kundera ties slowness to the act of remembering, and speed to the act of forgetting. When one wants to savor, remember, or prolong a moment, one moves and acts slowly. On the other hand, one travels fast in order to forget a past experience. For example, after Vincent's disastrous night at the chateau, he gets on his motorcycle and drives home as fast as he can in order to leave beh ...more
Keleigh
Apr 03, 2010 rated it really liked it
"...the degree of slowness is directly proportional to the intensity of memory; the degree of speed is directly proportional to the intensity of forgetting."

"The feeling of being elect is present, for instance, in every love relation. For love is by definition an unmerited gift; being loved without meriting it is the very proof of real love. If a woman tells me: I love you because you're intelligent, because you're decent, because you buy me gifts, because you don't chase women, because you do t
...more
Richard
May 11, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting, experimental, philosophical novel (in the loosest sense of the word) about the relationship between memory/forgetting and the pace of modern life. This could have been a complete mess but he manages the various strands of the story very well until the inevitable, farcical conclusion. Quite funny, too. Maybe this is the year he finally wins the Nobel...
Marija Andreeva
I haven't read a book so fast in a very long time. Kundera once again is genius. I love his melancholy, his philosophical approach in each book, elaborating his topic in the most profound way. And his style of writing is just impeccable, his words are magical. ...more
Tanuj Solanki
Nov 02, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It could become, in a possible rebirth, the counter culture classic we have been waiting for. Apropos YOLO and FOMO.
Yigal Zur
Feb 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
we lost the the enjoyment in slowness say Kundera. his mathematics is that more fast more we forget. we forget the disasters of yesterday, if the hungry children were from somalia or ethiopia.
Shankar
Feb 12, 2021 rated it liked it
An Unbearable Slowness of Understanding. I was inspired to read Kundera after hearing about the other The Unbearable.

An intensely short book with a set of events I could not really relate to its initial theme - “The magnitude of impact of an event is related to the degree of slowness.” ( hope I am right in this understanding ).

I guess I may need to attend a Kundera Appreciation 101 to enable a better review.

Not sure if this is a recommendation - more like a cautiously optimistic 3 star.
Hayden Ellington
As I am sitting at my computer, fingers hovering over and tapping different letters, I’m wondering what to write about Slowness. Slowness was an interesting read, that’s for sure. It’s my first Milan Kundera book that was given to me by a friend who didn’t want to collect the books she reads -I know, I don’t understand either!!!- anyway, I’m here, propped on my computer chair and wondering...

What did I think of this book? I’m a bit confused on that question. I know it made me think, but I also
...more
carlie
Nov 23, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
I had to read this a couple of times to absorbe everything Milan Kundera was trying to say. It was worth the effort. Despite being a bit surreal, or pehaps because of it, the storyscape of this book is a bit more lush than in some of his other works. His characters are all blatent actors filling the roll of themselves- sometimes excessively so. Kundera's societal commentary runs rampent through the few books of his that I've read. It remains so with this one, also, but there seem to be more lay ...more
Ahsan
I prefer the first two phases of Kundera's work, that ended in 1990 with publishing of Immortality. His latter works lack meat, almost divertimento-esque in nature. Kundera, if it makes sense, has become uber-Kundera; his writing, far too deconstructed for my taste.

Perhaps the fall of the Soviet Union has something to do with it. It's unthinkable, after all, to picture The Joke or Unbearable Lightness of Being without the lurking specter of the Soviet Union in the background. I like to think of
...more
Girish
Apr 18, 2021 rated it it was ok
Shelves: storytel
"The degree of slowness is directly proportional to the intensity of memory; the degree of speed is directly proportional to the intensity of forgetting."

This book is a contrast between slow and fast, an exploration of fame's pros and cons and of course the abstract utility of sex. I didn't like it.

There are sparks of ideas that make it Kundera's own playground. Like the chapter where two characters are trying to outdo each other in gaining fame through supporting causes. Or the pseudo-philoso
...more
Imad Khan
Jul 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
What an experience it was... The book, being only 150 pages detailed the premise of his story excellently.

He writes: "There is a Czech proverb that describes their easy indolence by a metaphor: "They are gazing at God's windows." A person gazing at God's windows is not bored; he is happy. In our world, indolence has turned into having nothing to do, which is a completely different thing: a person with nothing to do is frustrated, bored, is constantly searching for the activity he lacks."

"... an
...more
Nate D
Oct 21, 2011 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: even entimologists are humans
Recommended to Nate D by: chevaliers
Considering that this is mostly concerned with an assessment of the vanity and pettiness of all of humanity, and of camera-eyed, speed-frenzied modernity, this is surprisingly light-handed and brisk. Even when it's rapidly advancing a tightly inter-structured philosophical course of study. Partly because Kundera ultimately seems accepting of what he finds about his characters, even when it is far from flattering. People are all this way, but ultimately that's okay. It's just how they are. I gues ...more
Paul JB
I think Kundera's prose is becoming ever more free form in his old age - I can almost envisage him simply rattling the entire book off verbatim in some ad hoc after dinner speech. If this sounds like a criticism then it isn't intentional; even when he seems like he's spraying his life philosophy indiscriminately in every direction he still hits more often than he misses, and I suppose that still the best thing I can say about his work is that I have never read (nor expect to read) anything quite ...more
Czarny Pies
Nov 02, 2014 rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: People with time to waste.
Recommended to Czarny by: No one. I in fact read it against the advice of several knowledgeable readers.
Shelves: french-lit, étrons
Faute de pouvoir donner cinq etrons,je lui donne une etoile.

The Czechs should be eternally grateful to Milan Kundera for having written this clinker in French. The basic theme seems to be that modern man lives in an age of excessive physical speed. Because cars and motorcycles travel at a speed faster than man is capable of achieving with his own muscles, they project man into a state of ecstasy that is unnatural to him. He thus loses the pleasures of slowness which are natural to man. In our mo
...more
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Do less fortunate people exist? 2 10 Apr 02, 2020 05:54AM  
St. Anne's Readin...: 03/04/2017 :: Slowness 1 7 Mar 06, 2017 11:03AM  

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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
...more

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“There is a secret bond between slowness and memory, between speed and forgetting.

A man is walking down the street. At a certain moment, he tries to recall something, but the recollection escapes him. Automatically, he slows down.

Meanwhile, a person who wants to forget a disagreeable incident he has just lived through starts unconsciously to speed up his pace, as if he were trying to distance himself from a thing still too close to him in time.

In existential mathematics that experience takes the form of two basic equations: The degree of slowness is directly proportional to the intensity of memory; the degree of speed is directly proportional to the intensity of forgetting.”
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