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The Joke by Milan Kundera
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's review
Dec 08, 2009

really liked it

my favourite quote:
“I had always liked to tell myself that Lucie was something abstract, a legend and a myth, but now I knew that behind the poetry of these words hid an entirely unpoetic truth: that I didn’t know her; that I didn’t know her as she really was, as she was in and to herself. I had been able to perceive (in my youthful egocentricity) only those aspects of her being that were turned directly to me (to my loneliness, my captivity, my yearning for tenderness and affection); she had never been anything to me but a function of my own situation; everything that went beyond that concrete situation, everything that she was in herself, had escaped me. But if she was really a mere function of my situation, it was logical that when that situation altered (when another situation succeeded it, when I grew older and changed), my Lucie vanished with it, because from then on she was only what had escape me in her, what had not concerned me, what was beyond me. And so it was also logical that after fifteen years I had not recognized her. She had long been to me (and I had never thought of her except as being "to me") a different person, a stranger.

The message of my defeat had been trailing me for fifteen years, and now it had caught up with me. Kostka the eccentric (whom I'd never taken more than half seriously) had meant more for her, known more about her and loved her better (not more, because the strength of my love could scarcely have been greater): to him she had confided everything - to me nothing; he had made her happy - I had made her unhappy; he had known her physically - I had not. And yet all I needed in order to possess the body I so desperately desired was one simple thing: to understand her, to know her, to love her not only for what she was to me but for everything in her that did not immediately concern me, for what she was in and to herself. I had been unable to do that and so had hurt myself and her. A wave of anger washed over me, anger against myself, at my age at the time, that stupid lyrical age, when a man is too great a riddle to himself to be interested in the riddles outside himself and when other people (no matter how dear) are mere walking mirrors in which he is amazed to find his own emotions, his own worth. Yes, for fifteen years I'd thought of Lucie only as the mirror that preserved my image of those days!”
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Reading Progress

Started Reading
December 6, 2009 – Finished Reading
December 8, 2009 – Shelved

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

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Marik Casmon Yes, this is a beautiful quote and thought from the novel. there are, as I'm sure you know, more than one.

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