download Reading ŽertAuthor Milan Kundera –

The First Definitive, Complete Edition Of The Author S Classic First Novel Presents A Tale Of Love, Politics, Revenge, And The Fate Of Individuals In Contemporary Society By The Author Of The Unbearable Lightness Of BeingToward The End Of This Brilliant First Novel Of Thwarted Love And Revenge Miscarried, Its Leading Character Narrator Arrives At The Thought That Most People Deceive Themselves With A Pair Of Faiths They Believe In Eternal Memory Of People, Things, Deeds, Nations And In Redressibility Of Deeds, Mistakes, Sins, Wrongs Both Are False Faiths In Reality The Opposite Is True Everything Will Be Forgotten And Nothing Will Be Redressed The Task Of Obtaining Redress By Vengeance Or By Forgiveness Will Be Taken Over By Forgetting No One Will Redress The Wrongs That Have Been Done, But All Wrongs Will Be Forgotten All Too Often, Prophetic Words Like These, And Indeed The Joke In Its Entirety, Have Been Read For Their Narrowly Political Implications Now, A Quarter Century After This Novel Was First Published And Several Years After The Collapse Of The Soviet Imposed Czechoslovak Regime, It Becomes Easier To Put Such Implications Into Perspective In Favor Of Valuing The Book And All Of Kundera S Work As What It Truly Is Great, Stirring Literature That Sheds New Light On The Eternal Themes Of Human Existence The Present Edition Provides English Language Readers An Important Further Means Toward Revaluation Of The Joke For Reasons He Describes In His Author S Note, Milan Kundera Devoted Much Time To Creating With The Assistance Of His American Publisher Editor A Completely Revised Translation That Reflects His Original As Closely As Any Translation Possibly Can Reflects It In Its Fidelity Not Only To The Words And Syntax But Also To The Characteristic Dictions And Tonalities Of The Novel S Narrators The Result Is Nothing Less Than The Restoration Of A Classic

10 thoughts on “Žert

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    On Monday at around 3 o clock in the afternoon I decided I was going to read The Joke I don t really know why it occurred to me out of the blue the only thought I d ever given Kundera before that point was that the titles of his books obviously lived in a world devoid of irony in order to persist in their existence, and that that unironic world was one I wanted no part of On the other hand, I really liked the title The Joke and I d always liked the font in which it was written That was about all I needed, so I took the train over to the Strand and picked up their only copy Shhh it was fate.Anyway, now it s about 1 30 AM on Wednesday and I just finished the book, so I m having a Moment Luckily, the pensive sad confusion I was left with upon finishing the book had worked itself out in my head even before I d finished spreading jam on my Post Reading Biscuit not an allegory, I actually did just eat a biscuit The Joke is basically about that moment when you realize that the past has just caught up with you resolved itself tortured you for far longer than it needed It reminds me of this time a few years ago when I started sobbing over old photos of myself as a little kid one night while I was at my parents house I sort of ended up burying my head in my mother s lap and she said something shockingly insightful, just about the most shockingly insightful thing she s ever said to me that sometimes we feel sad about the past just because we can t get it back, and that s okay The implication which was clear then but I ve lost in the re telling was that even the parts of the past that aren t all that significant are overwhelmingly ultimate in their lost ness with the passage of time, and the shock of that can often be kind of crushing, but our reaction to that in my case, sobbing and snotting all over my mother s lap and afghan is totally human and completely all right.It s weird I remember that, because The Joke is actually not about inconsequential parts of the past It s about the earth shattering bits that shape a person for better or worse , as well as the slow, creeping dissatisfaction of regret This is probably what most first novels are about, because why else would a beginning writer finally commit all those words to paper for the first time if they weren t plagued by something they wanted to release, i.e themselves from i.e the past Right So probably most first novels are about this, but The Joke pretends to be about a lot of other things before that, which is its trick It relaxes you with detached and dated political analysis and historical references and discussions of music and quirky post modern unreliable narrators and Wuthering Heights esque generation spanning love But in the last fifty pages or so it starts twisting and revealing itself, almost clumsily, and by the end you realize it s so freaking obvious No wonder that for the past two days you ve inexplicably been thinking about the sadnesses of your own life and your past relationships and people you know who ve died And no wonder you re sitting up in the middle of the night writing a confessional missive on the internet wankfest that is Goodreads That s ALL THAT FREAKING BOOK WAS ABOUT And you can t even tell what part of what you re thinking is something that happened in the book and what part is something that happened to you.Anyway The other thing is that there aren t any actual jokes in it And maybe I was at my most pure when I was seventeen The End.

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    402 ert The Joke, Milan KunderaThe Joke Czech ert is Milan Kundera s first novel, originally published in 1967 The novel is composed of many jokes, which have strong effects on the characters The story is told from the four viewpoints of Ludvik Jahn, Helena Zem nkov , Kostka, and Jaroslav Jaroslav s joke is the transition away from his coveted Moravian folk lifestyle and appreciation Kostka, who has separated himself from the Communist Party due to his Christianity, serves as a counterpoint to Ludvik Helena serves as Ludvik s victim and is satirical of the seriousness of party supporters Ludvik demonstrates the shortcomings of the party and propels the plot in his search for revenge and redemption 1992 1370 1372 411 1379 9645512808 1388 20 1967

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    The Set UpMilan Kundera wrote this, his first, novel in his early 30 s.I had already read and loved two later works, and was expecting it to be somehow inferior, as if he was still learning the ropes However, it s an amazingly mature novel, and could fit anywhere in his body of work.For all its metaphysical concerns, the writing style is very much concerned with the material world and the dynamism within it Philosophy derives partly from the activity of external factors The first person narrators discover what people are thinking indirectly from their actions Kundera observes and describes a character s behaviour rather than dwelling directly on their psychology We see what characters have done, then we see them come undone Bit by bit, by accumulation of knowledge, we start to understand why.The novel plays out like a tense game of chess Every move is precisely choreographed Kundera sets the characters off on their journey, then follows them with his camera And we follow him Sometimes the work reads like a novelisation of a film or play It portrays exactly what we see Not a word is wasted.The JokeThe concept of a joke pervades the novel The title derives from a postcard the protagonist, Ludvik, writes to Marketa, the target of his affection, while she is studying Marxism in a Czech summer school in the early 60 s Optimism is the opium of the people A healthy atmosphere stinks of stupidity Long live Trotsky The postcard is discovered by the Communist authorities, and after a brief investigation, hearing and vote, Ludvik is expelled from the Party, sacked from his teaching position at a university and sent off to work in a mine with enemies of the state.Despite her beauty, Marketa is credulous, intellectually dull and lacking in a sense of humour Ludvik s postcard is an attempt to play a silly joke on Marketa However, the joke is lost on both Marketa and the state.The TrapIn his preface, Kundera denies that the novel was designed to be a major indictment of Stalinism. Instead, he argues that it s a love story It is that, but I think he s being just a little ingenuous Kundera pays equal attention to the political Whether or not society had similar problems under Communism and Capitalism, Kundera describes a rigidity and humourlessness that affects both individuals and the state Later, he would write of the trap the world has become.The underlying problem is both social and political the tendency of both the individual and the state to be overly serious, inflexible, self protective and punitive Whatever the political system, a sense of humour is a safety valve that allows pent up personal and social pressures to escape Humour can relax, relieve and release tension not to mention pretension If humour isn t possible or it doesn t work in the circumstances, the person, the collective remains too highly strung, too highly sprung The joke is a spring, a coil that allows the situation to uncoil and the tension to dissipate A joke is what allows a tree to bend and sway in the wind.The StructureKundera tells his tale in seven separate parts, each of which is divided into sub parts Each part is narrated by one of the major characters, three men, and one woman Helena One of the other characters, Lucie, is a trigger point for much of the action However, she doesn t tell her own story Instead, the other characters shine a light on her from outside We are never confident that we have gotten to know her She remains elusive.After publication, a Czech critic observed that there was a mathematical structure to the novel that wasn t apparent to Kundera himself If you broke the novel into 18 parts, Ludvik s monologue took up 12, Jaroslav three, Kostka two, and Helena one I can t help picturing this as a fern like fractal that furls and unfurls in the telling Thus, the coiling and uncoiling of the joke and its aftermath is reflected in the structure of the novel.The Punch LineApart from the joke, as Kundera states, the novel is a love story We see most of it from Ludvik s twenty thirty something point of view We see what he does to women and why It s not always a pretty picture, but it is truthful Ludvik s goal isn t always his own sexual pleasure or that of his companion His relationship with Helena whose story we hear from her is motivated by revenge on a rival which proves to be misconceived Some readers might complain about Ludvik s or Kundera s sexism and cruelty However, overall, the design of the novel allows us to witness different perspectives in a polyphonic manner When we see the situation from the other side s , we learn that Ludvik might equally have been the victim of a cosmic joke Both photos are stills from the 1969 film of the novel directed by Jaromil Jire The Recognition The Joke is effectively a caveat against egotism, a warning against selfishness, especially in sexual relationships In the Communist polit speak used against Ludvik, it s a reproach of traces of individualism and intellectual tendencies , the refusal to submit to the greater good whether of the couple or of society However, these traces and tendencies go further than Communist society, hence the broader ambitions Kundera had for his novel.Whatever the political environment, Kundera describes a depression over the bleakness of our erotic horizons.How men in particular deal with this bleakness and depression reflects in their sexual behaviour It s too easy for men to take it out on the woman closest to them.Ludvik comments on the incredible human capacity for transforming reality into a likeness of desires or ideals He describes the women in his life as angels and goddesses There s a lack of reality in his perspective Inevitably, it compromises the relationship itself a man may ask anything of a woman, but unless he wishes to appear a brute, he must make it possible for her to act in harmony with her deepest self deceptions So women, equally, have desires and ideals that might misguide them For both genders, then, desire is often founded in self deceit, if not also the deceit of others.The Vain PursuitLudvik defines women in relation to himself and his own needs Lucie s truth is hidden from Ludvik, because his gaze is single mindedly selfish I d always taken comfort in seeing Lucie as something abstract, a legend and a myth, but now I realised that behind the poetry of my vision hid a starkly unpoetic reality that I didn t know her as she actually was, in and of herself All I d been able to perceive in my youthful egocentricity was those aspects of her being touching directly on me my loneliness, my captivity, my desire for tenderness and affection she had never been anything to me than a function of my situation, everything she was in her own right, had escaped me entirely Ultimately, Lucie reveals to Ludvik and via him to all men how much of their love is mere vain pursuit. By extension, Kundera suggests that, both in our vanity and in our pursuit, we are the brunt of our own joke.

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    she had been caught stealing flowers in a cemetery You know the theory which speculates that married men are way funnier than unmarried one because they have got the punchline The above joke is a test of how satisfied men are from their marriages and must never be made in presence of wives, as some husbands have imprudence to laugh on it But that is the thing about jokes You don t make something funny, funny is already in air in form of unhappy husbands it won t be funny to kids who know little about marriage , someone just discovers a way to poke at it Almost all humor is invoked by the fact that we are almost always trying hard to put up an act in one way or other when something happens which reminds us of the reason we are putting the act, laughter becomes one of many possible responses A non vegetarian joke get you at sexual impulses that you won t tell others about, the motion fails people slipping, falling down etc are funny to people who are themselves most afraid of looking silly, it is people themselves spending time on their own appearances and thus always with heavy makeup on that make fun of how others look, the people who get George Carlin s humor do so because they are themselves putting up happily with a people that they don t think are ideal I m pretty sure some big philosopher gave this theory or something similar, I can t recall who Now the thing is biggest acts humanity puts up with are five nationalism, religion, political belief systems, property, and marriage And they all prompt jokes both the good kind and the bad kind In fact, anything which can be called an institution will prompt a joke because all institutions make assumptions as to how you should perceive reality and how you should behave Religious organizations will have you believe how God created the world, political ones will have you believe how their own values are best etc Even elementary schools brush your teeth daily, take bath daily etc what is that about I don t bath for months and I m doing just fine Don t get me wrong, I m not saying one should do away with institutions but just that they kill individuality which is where hope for humanity lies just look at the idea that requirements of 30 odd different students can be met in a single class by a single teacher at the same time Personally, I believe, institutions should rather be like music instruments with different kind of notes joining together to create music, for now, they are like trying to make all buttons create same sound Some of the members of the institution might actually believe in its one size fits all value system while others are only putting up an act Thus individuals are prompted to put an act and thus leaving opportunities of humor It goes without saying that people with power over or interests in institutions don t like humor Remember that Queen Victoria s we are not amused Of course, you aren t dear, it breaks the whole act It is like emperor s new clothes, they don t like reality Now I understood why the king s face must be veiled Not that he should not be seen, but that he should not see And humor is the best way to point out the truth If rightly done, it is the second most strongest of arguments next only to silence All I m trying to say is that no great movement designed to change the world can bear sarcasm or mockery, because they are a rust that corrodes all it touches Soviet Socialism which made revolution into an institution was no different from all this, only so telling people what to say and what to feel Our protagonist is trying to pretend that he is a good socialist, but he senses the humor in air Young as he was, it was only a matter of time before he ended up joking about it The rulers obviously weren t amused and so he is sentenced hard labor And I was horrified at the thought that things conceived in error are just as real as things conceived with good reason and of necessity Of course, the ones who punished him were themselves putting up an act They stood between life and death They weren t petty If they had read my postcard, they might have laughed And I could see nothing but actors, their faces covered by masks of cretinous virility and arrogant brutishness I found no extenuation in the thought that the masks hid another human face, since the real horror seemed to lie in the fact that the faces beneath the masks were fiercely devoted to the inhumanity and coarseness of the masks The biggest comedian in the story though is fate who makes a joke of several people in the book thus providing a common theme to all stories.This is a lot than a political novel Kundera manages to create parallels in personal and political lives of characters I especially liked narrator s love story at Labour camp I really liked Lucie s story we kissed through a gap in the barbed wire A bit off the subject, but this is partially why I don t like RSS and BJP with their Hindu way of life I don t like the idea of anyone forcing any kind of lifestyle on anyone Not they aren t full of absurdities They have somehow convinced millions of people that in a country where millions of children are undernourished, women s rights are screwed, students are committing suicide we must not forget our priorities and save cows first Now try making a joke about that It is beyond humor, right Gayen Hamari mata hai, aaghe kuch nahia aata hai Cow is our mama, know nothing than that You know what I don t understand They never seem to care about bull papas I mean, do you know how screwed the sex ratios of cattle are is Even the worst of bull papas can have a harem Why do they don t cry about that Is it father issues or what I mean holy cow that is sexist man This can go on and on But on some other day Quotes it s not your enemies who condemn you to solitude, it s your friends When it is postponed, vengeance is transformed into something deceptive, into a personal religion, into a myth that recedes day by day from the people involved, who remain the same in the myth though in reality the walkway is in constant motion they long ago became different people I merely squeezed the bottle in my palm and said to myself I m holding my death in my hand, and I was enthralled by so much opportunity, it was like going step by step to an abyss, not to jump into it, just to look down Because being brave in solitude, without witnesses, without the reward of others approbation, face to face with himself, that took great pride and strength If we looked back, we d end up like Lot s wife dog s yelp can t reach heaven it occurred to me that when we were buying clothes in the summer we had forgotten that summer would end and cold weather come

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    I like Kundra because he doesn t imprison me in a fastened frame of a classic narration Reading Kundra seems as if you meet an old friend after ages in a cafe shop, and while she he relates her his life story, you zip your coffee, listen to the cafe music, hear some chats and laughs at nabouring tables, look at the peddlers at side walk, or a passing tramvay, as life is flowing around, 1370