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Slowness Hardcover – May, 1996

ISBN-13: 978-0060173692 ISBN-10: 0060173696 Edition: 1st

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Editorial Reviews Review

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.

From Publishers Weekly

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.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 156 pages
  • Publisher: Harpercollins; 1st edition (May 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060173696
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060173692
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (46 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,587,441 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

A bad Kundera is still better than most.
Don't look at this book and think because of its brevity it will give you a quick feel for whether or not you like Kundera.
Bryan Thompson
Any honest writer would be embarassed to publish such schlock.
Alexander Suraev

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By on August 5, 1999
Format: Paperback
There is no one else quite like kundera. Indeed, even the president of iran, Khatami, is of this opinion. I concur. No other author can turn a perfectly ordinary phrase or event into a philospical discourse, and yet, keep it light, make it sprightly, and bring it to an open-ended conclusion. An oxy-moron? Not in Kundera's case. Its a study of speed and slowness, and the process of forgetting and remembering. a touch of sex (invariably with a dose of S&M), and mundane events. But what i find fascinating (more so than anything else) is that he doesnt tie up all the loose ends - stories go on, just as life does. there is no neat little ribon at the end, people are ordinary with limited views, mortal thoughts, and always, display a strong weakness of the flesh. The pathetic remain so: the inglorious acquire no immortality. His eye censors nothing in its translation to the written word.
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16 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Diego Echecopar on August 26, 2000
Format: Paperback
After reading "Immortality", "The unbearable lightness of being", and the "The farewell party", I must agree that this novel, "Slowness" was the lightest of all of them. Still, it's interesting and entertaining, maintains Kundera's style of finding profound observations in the behavior of their characters. This time the plot takes place in a medieval castle in France, and in two different time periods: in an entomologist congress in our days (most of the novel), and also with flashbacks of sex intrigues that took place in the same castle centuries ago. The key to enjoy this book is in not giving too much importance to it. Just read it and have fun. If you have read just before a book by Grisham, Wolfe, Clancy, Archer or one of that kind of best-selling authors, you will found "slowness" profound; if you have read Dostoievski, you will not. The characters are all well built, and all of them are interesting. The author shows us their thoughts and feelings, their pride, guilt, excitement; their different personalities and the interaction between them. We enjoy the book as we identify with all of this, relating these characteristics to us, or with somebody we know. It's quite simple but very entertaining. In fact, this characterizes all of Kundera's titles. However, I believe that this is not a good book to start reading Kundera, it might give a wrong impression of the author. It's better to start with "Immortality" or "The unbearable lightness of being".
Good book, I gave four stars to it because there are better titles by the same author. If you want to read something good, but light, "Slowness" is a perfect choice.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By R. Walker on February 13, 2001
Format: Paperback
I suppose it would be a mistake to describe this slim volume as a fast read. If the book is shorter and in some ways lighter than Kundera's other novels, one imagines that Kundera expects the reader to linger that much longer with it anyway. Like his other novels, this one is heavy with ideas, often at the expense of character or plot, but like his other novels the range of those ideas is dazzling. The writing is irresistible, funny, provoking, and unexpected. A pleasure, like every bit of Kundera I've read. (And I'm coming to this after having read, and enjoyed, several of his books; it's impossible for me to say, but I can understand the argument that first-time Kundera readers are better off starting with, for example, the Unbearable Lightness of Being.) The primary elements include a Kundera-ish narrator off to a chateau getaway with his wife; a meditation on an 18th century novella about a brief affair; a low-profile Paris intellectual and his café cronies; a high-profile intellectual who is perhaps less an intellectual than a publicity hound; and a meeting of entomologists. Among the ideas explored are the need for an invisible audience, the meaning of hedonism, the politician as "dancer," the Sublime Planetary Historic News Event, and, of course, the beauty - the lost beauty, as Kundera sees it -- of slowness. A great read, fast or slow or in between.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 29, 1997
Format: Paperback
....on the hypocrisy of human nature. Milan Kundera has this penchant for brutally analysing the schisms of life & human behaviour - their contradictions and their fallacies - all seemingly existing beneath the public masks. In " Slowness", Milan Kundera has juxtaposed two parallel stories, separated in time and space from each other. Berck and Pontevin are the two characters in one parallel. Berck is the intellectual who is at odds with his public face, with conflicting thoughts and behaviour. Pontevin is his intellectual adversary and is considered a guru by Vincent, an impressionable friend in awe of the seemingly infallible Pontevin. Parallely, Madame de. T and Chevaliar are amourously involved in another time..... The book is funnily disjoint and disarrayed, yet brings out the ironic viscissitudes of the modern world, at times different yet at times ridiculously permanent..... a good read ... I enjoyed it
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Christopher A. Smith on July 15, 2001
Format: Paperback
A bit lighter than standard Kundera fare, both in word count and in tone, but in Slowness fans of Kundera's more traditional work will find much of what they expect: quirky protagonists, a blurred line between novelist-narrator-character, and Kundera's usual existentialist meditations.
The pace of life (slowness vs. haste) is the primary theme this time around, and to explore this idea Kundera tells the story of two seductions that are separated by two hundred years. In the present we have all the features of modern society (media, communication, technology) that keep us so focused on the destination that we forget about the journey. In the past we have the vagabonds of yesteryear who with their easy indolence symbolized the leisurely pace of their era.
Sex, as always, offers an opportunity for an interesting analogy. The present-day narrator discusses an woman who mentions the word "orgasm" forty seven times in a lecture about sex, reducing the physical act of sex to " obstacle to be got past a quickly as possible in order to reach an ecstatic explosion..." Several passages later, the 18th century lady who is a character in the parallel tale practices seduction as the " of staying as long as possible in a state of arousal."
There is lots of silly stuff too. Irreverent characters, comical situations, politics, and at one point the narrator has a discussion with a character's penis. Other reviewers have accused Kundera of laughing at us in this novel, and while I can understand how one might come to this conclusion I don't agree. I found the novel to be entertaining and, occasionally, insightful. And at 132 pages you'll get through the whole book in a sitting or two.
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