Thursday, April 26, 2012

ReView of Identity by Milan Kundera

Brief Review of Identity by Milan Kundera

Identity by Milan Kundera
Literary Fiction ; (168 pgs)
Harper Perennial

Milan Kundera really doesn't dissapoint.  The most particular and spectacular aspect of Kundera's books, including this one, has to be how he uses the plot and events of the book just as mere paths through which to talk about really passionate, philosophical, and definitely universal concepts and themes.  In Identity, the reader is confronted with questions about the individual.  Who is a person?  How does a person change with the events of their lives?  What kinds of moments in life defines the evolution of the individual and how?  What about when we fall in love?  How does that change who we become?  Is the identity of an individual rigid, or does it consistently chance through time?  Is it like they say, fluid like a river flowing never the same at any point in time?  Who are we to ourselves, to the world, and the people we love? What about in our imagination? In our dreams?  There is so much to pull from this book.  Its beauty definitely lies its rich context.

You know, dreams are the thoughts of the subconscious, or so the word around is.  Maybe Kundera wrote this piece of literature this way to tell us something.  Maybe we don't want to believe our doubts about the people around us. How much do we really know someone?  How well can we really know someone, afterall? Most times when we struggle with such concepts they surface in our dreams.  In our dreams the conversation we have with ourselves becomes very vivid and real, just as in the book, but it also feels like we are coming in and out of focus, also an aspect of the book.  The dream is in a way a conversation we don't necessarily want to have in real life.  So dreams become the vehicle through which we sort out those thoughts, ideas, and perspectives we struggle with.  Just like in books. So maybe Kundera finished this book in such a fashion for this reason. One of many reasons, I'm sure.  He is truly a genius of language, human psyche, and universal themes.

"But dreams are not prophecies."

It's also possible life is but a dream we never wake up from.

Take your pick.

Quotes from Identity by Milan Kundera

"Remembering out past, carrying it with us always, may be the necessary requirement for maintaining, as they say, the wholeness of the self.  To ensure that the self doesn't shrink, to see that it holds on to its volume, memories have to be watered like potted flowers, and the watering calls for regular contact with the witnesses of the past, that is to say, with friends.  They are our mirror; our memory; we ask nothing of them but that they polish the mirror from time to time so we can look at ourselves in it.  But I don't care a damn about what I did in high school!  What I've always wanted, since my early adolescence, maybe even since childhood, was something else entirely: friendship as a value prized above all others."

"We go through our lives without great perils, but also without friendship."

"If hatred strikes you, if you get accused, thrown to the lions, you can expect one of two reactions from people who know you: some of them will join in the kill, the others will very discreetly pretend to know nothing, hear nothing, so you can go right on seeing them and talking to them.  That second category, discreet and tactful, those are your friends.  'Friends' in the modern sense of the term."

"It's not a setback to give up your studies, what I gave up at that moment was ambition.  I was suddenly a man without ambition.  And having lost my ambition, I suddenly found myself at the margin of the world.  And, what was worse:  I had no desire to be anywhere else.  I had all the less desire given that there was no real threat of hardship.  But if you have no ambition, if you're not avid to succeed, to gain recognition, you're setting yourself up on the verge of ruin."

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