Friday, March 4, 2011

On laughter and forgetting

Decades before, in Bohemia, a communist general, Gottwald, took over the power. Standing near to him when he was addressing the nation for the first time, on a balcony when snow flakes were falling, was Vladimir Clementis. To protect the leader from snow, Clementis keeps his fur cap on Gottwald's head. The photograph of Gottwald, fur cap and Clementis on the balcony with snow falling around them became popular. Years later when Clementis was executed, charged with treason, the propaganda department deleted him from the history, and also from the photograph, leaving his fur cap on the head of Gottwald the only spot of him in history.
In "The Book of Laughter and Forgetting", Czech writer Milan Kundera elaborates on two of the biggest enigmas of post modern world, laughter and forgetting. This is not a conventional kind of novel. It consists of seven totally different narratives, but altogether bound by the themes of laughter and forgetting. In between the stories there are snippets of memories, political satire and philosophical banter. Novel analyses variations of forgetting and laughter. Natural forgetting, like the wife after her husband's death trying unsuccessfully to remake him in every man whom she meets, and induced forgetting, like the one were Clementis is totally made to remain forgotten from public minds. Induced laughter, the one made by humor or jokes, and natural laughter, the angel's laughter, or serious laughter that comes by itself. 

This is Kundera's third book that I read. The effect of  "Life is elsewhere", the novel about the life of a poet, a novel that I read during my teens, is getting worn. Think its time for a re-read. "Testaments Betrayed" that I read last year, is a collection of essays. In this one Kundera makes a parallel between the history of Novel and European classical music. The part about music went above my head. But the part about novels were fascinating. Ultimately the discussion reaches Kafka and betrayed testaments are that of Kafka, whose works were published posthumously, although his instruction to his friends was to destroy all his notebooks.   


  1. Lucky you, get the time to read such wonderful ones...while I am struggling to finish my Eat Pray Love...

  2. Thanks for the visit, Alka. Actually I dont get time 4 reading. I make it :)