A Quick Word

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Thursday, March 29, 2012


"Nothing's as it seems, but who can be sure?"

As far as I can remember, this was the first book that had triggered me to look at how the story ended. I hate spoilers, but I couldn't resist the urge.

The story started oh-so-well and progressed prudently. However, I think Milan's razor-sharp wit suddenly disappeared in the middle of the narrative because when I was nearing the finale, it suddenly transformed from realism to fantasy sort of thing. The vagueness of the ending completely caught me off-guard. It was like being ripped off after you had invested your time since it had good potentials at the beginning.
But then again, maybe that was Kundera's purpose, to give us a first person glance on how circumstances affect a person's well-being. Just as for the main character herself, Chantal was also led on by her own perception, combined with vivid imagination, and then both of which turning out to be incongruent to what was really happening.. It was a perfect recipe for disaster, in this case, the final thread to the losing of Chantal's wits.

The Plot (From Publishers Weekly):

In his second novel written in French (after Slowness), Czech-born novelist Kundera employs spare prose in the service of a meditation on the precarious nature of the human sense of self. Recently divorced ad executive Chantal, on a vacation with her younger boyfriend, Jean-Marc, believes that she is too old to be considered attractive by other men. For Chantal, identity is defined by the perceptions of strangers. Her dreams, to the extent that they impose a "leveling contemporaneity of everything a person has ever experienced," disturb Chantal. They remind her that she has a past, when she feels that she exists only in the present, that she is who she is only at any given moment. When she returns from her vacation, she begins to receive letters from an anonymous admirer. She suspects each new man she encounters to be the mysterious scribe and fantasizes how each might perceive her. Gradually, these letters, along with a few dreams, affect how Chantal views herself and her relationship with Jean-Marc, until her feelings and identity become unrecognizable both to her lover and to herself. At the end of the book, the unnamed narrator asks: "At what exact moment did the real turn into the unreal, reality into reverie? Where was the border? Where is the border?"...

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