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About the Author

Milan Kundera is the author of the novels The Joke, Farewell Waltz, Life Is Elsewhere, The Book of Laughter and Forgetting, The Unbearable Lightness of Being, and Immortality, and the short-story collection Laughable Loves--all originally written in Czech. His most recent novels Slowness, Identity, and Ignorance, as well as his nonfiction works The Art of the Novel, Testaments Betrayed, The Curtain, and Encounter, were originally written in French.

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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?" Kundera has long explored themes of impermanence and fluctuating identity‘often to memorable effect, particularly in The Unbearable Lightness of Being and even in the more recent Immortality. His new novel lacks a certain vitality, however, perhaps because, torn from any historical or political context, Kundera's metaphysical musings aren't very engaging, or perhaps because the book lacks the ironic edge that Kundera's admirers have come to expect. (May)

"A novel of posessive passion. . . gets us turning the pages in excitement and alarm, Kundera's wit keeps us turning them to the very end." --" San Fransisco Chronicle""Curiously absorbing, with a melancholy charm." --" Wall Street Journal""Arresting. In its brevity and unity of plot it surpasses even his previous book, "Slowness."" -- Christopher Lehmann-Haupt, "New York Times""A fervent and compelling romance, a moving fable about the anxieties of love and separateness." --" Baltimore Sun""Its allegory of love left me shivering with an ambiguous, indefinable, yet strong sense of evil." -- "Washington Post Book World"

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