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Two simultaneous stories, both taking place in a French chateau two centuries apart, details the sexual encounters of an eighteenth-century couple and the absence of sex for a twentieth-century married couple and compares the "morning after" of the two men.
After the gravity of The Unbearable Lightness of Being and Immortality, Slowness comes as a surprise: it is certainly Kundera's lightest novel, a divertimento, with, as the author himself says, "not a single serious word in it."
Disconcerted and enchanted, the reader follows the narrator through a midsummer's night in which two tales of seduction, sperated by more than two-hundred years, interweave and oscillate between the sublime and the comic, finally culminating in poignant cross-century encounter sure to linger in the reader's mind
Despite Kundera's disclaimer about the novel's seriousness, Slowness resonates with a profound meditation on contemporary life, the secret bond between slowness and memory, the connection between our era's desire to forget and the way we have given ourselves over to the demon of speed.
Kundera's latest (after Immortality) is a scintillating jeu d'esprit, as coolly elegant and casually brutal as the 18th-century French arts to which the text pays tribute. Indeed, this is the expatriate Czech author's first novel written in French, his adopted homeland's native tongue. The paintings of Fragonard and Watteau, Sade's La Philosophie dans le boudoir, Laclos's Les Liaisons dangereuses and an obscure novella entitled Point de lendemain, by Vivant Denon, are all invoked by the narrator, who may be Kundera himself (his wife calls him "Milanku"). He recalls the plot of Point de lendemain while visiting a chateau-turned-hotel, admiring the leisurely hedonism implicit in both these relics of a bygone age. "Why has the pleasure of slowness disappeared?" the narrator asks as he considers the frantic, joyless pursuit of stimulation that modern men and women call pleasure. He remembers-or perhaps invents-a group of French intellectuals determined to demonstrate their political correctness as a means of furthering their ambitions. "Dancers," he calls them, discerning that they are more concerned with displaying their moral purity than with accomplishing anything. The political and sexual maneuverings of these contemporary characters intermingle with the narrator's musings and ongoing retelling of Point de lendemain; in a brilliant and oddly moving finale, the protagonist of the 18th-century novella comes face to face with his present-day counterpart, Vincent, who is incapable of slowing down long enough to appreciate the meaning of the experiences he has just undergone. A deliberate chilliness of tone and the one-dimensionality of Vincent and his peers keep this from being as emotionally engaging as it is intellectually stimulating. Nonetheless, it embodies provocative thoughts on personal and social triviality from a postmodern master. 100,000 first printing; $100,000 ad/promo. (May) FYI: Also in May, HarperPerennial is issuing a new translation of The Book of Laughter and Forgetting by Aaron Asher, Kundera's longtime editor and publisher, and husband of Linda Ashe. The translation incorporates revisions made by Kundera in the mid-1980s.
We based our evaluation of book condition on the following criteria:
* New: Just like it sounds. A brand-new, unused, unread copy in perfect condition.
* Like New: An apparently unread copy in perfect condition. Dust cover is intact; pages are clean and are not marred by notes or folds of any kind.
* Very Good: A copy that has been read, but remains in excellent condition. Pages are intact and are not marred by notes or highlighting, but may contain a neat previous owner name. The spine remains undamaged.
* Good: A copy that has been read, but remains in clean condition. All pages are intact, and the cover is intact. The spine may show signs of wear. Pages can include limited notes and highlighting, and the copy can include "From the library of" labels or previous owner inscriptions.
* Acceptable: A readable copy. All pages are intact, and the cover is intact (the dust cover may be missing). Pages can include considerable notes--in pen or highlighter--but the notes cannot obscure the text.