Laala Alghata's Reviews > Life is Elsewhere

Life is Elsewhere by Milan Kundera
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's review
Aug 14, 2010

really liked it
Read from August 14 to 23, 2010

“The poet shouted that freedom was poetry’s duty, and that even a metaphor was worth fighting for.” — Milan Kundera, Life is Elsewhere

Almost surprisingly for a Kundera novel, I can actually summarise this one quite neatly. It’s the story of Jaromil, a boy growing up in Czechoslovakia (true fact: I had to check my history dates in order to know whether to say Czechoslovakia or the Czech Republic), his parents, especially his mother and the influence of social change, love, and family on our lives. Jaromil is from the very beginning announced by Kundera as a poet, before he is born, before we have gained an impression of him, before we are allowed to decide for ourselves whether he is fit to hold the title of poet. This means that even while he is going through a painting phase, you are waiting for him to put down his brush and pick up his pen, you want to read his poetry, you want to know what makes how he sees the world so different from everyone else.

The book is split into seven sections that flow into each quite well, and I enjoyed it immensely from the very beginning, although when Xaiver was first introduced I went through the pages in a state of confusion (which was cleared up later). Kundera gives us a first-hand account of how someone could so fully support a doctrine, even when it is clearly creating causalities, and that is both disturbing (when you like the character) and enlightening. That said, though, the political aspect of the book did not drown out the emotional and human aspect of it, which was by far the more dominant. I enjoyed reading through Jaromil’s life, even when I completely disagreed with him, even when I thought he should get his head checked, even when I found myself liking him.

I remain a faithful fan of Milan Kundera, and I can’t wait to pick up another of his books.

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