I have read many of Kundera’s works and it was difficult to choose one of his novels for a first review, so I decided to just pick the one I just finished reading : Farewell Waltz (La Valse aux Adieux in French – I read it in French 😉 )
The first Kundera I read was Slowness, and I remember that at the end of the book, I thought that the title was well-chosen. I had read the book very quickly, focusing on the plot rather than on Kundera’s prose. I later read in the introduction of one of his works that it was a remarkable characteristic of a Kundera novel to be read fast.
Anyways, Slowness aroused my curiosity and I started looking at some of the author’s other works. I fell in love with every title of his books, and later with every story. Let’s have a deeper look into Farewell Waltz now.
“I am not in favor of imposing happiness on people. Everyone has a right to his bad wine, to his stupidity, and to his dirty fingernails.”
The story takes place during 5 days. 5 single days that will change the lives of the characters. Klima, a famous trumpeter, receives a phone call and learns that a mistress he had for one night is now pregnant. Although certain that he is not the father, he goes to meet her in order to convince her to have an abortion (which at the time in Prague was not as easy). The spa where his mistress works as a nurse will then become the stage of a dark comedy, in which a handful of characters will meet.
As I said before, when I read Slowness, I focused on the plot. However, with Farewell Waltz, I knew a bit more about the author to look at his writing. Some stories can be read for the sake of the plot but I feel that with Kundera, there is more than the events themselves. In many of his books, he manages to offer character developments without expanding on physical and mental descriptions. He focuses on the essential, and every given detail is a detail that will help you understand the characters and their relationships.
What I love more about Kundera is the narrative. Most of the time (if not all of the time?), the narrator seems to be an observer of the scenes, a shadow, maybe one of the readers. I remember that in one of his works, the narrator stops the story in the middle of the book, and asks the reader whether they thought about the same plot but with a different point of view. And for one chapter, the “observer” spies on a secondary character and then goes back to the main plot. In Farewell Waltz, the omniscient narrator helps us understand the thoughts of the different people, and allows us to enter each character’s life and past.
I saw this novel as a play, with a very dark humoured director pulling the strings of eight puppets, a play in which all characters play a role for five days. It also has some characteristics of the thriller genre and at the end of the novel, I was really excited to have a resolution.
As I’m just starting on this journey of book reviewing, I do not know how to continue and/or end this article. I hope the little information I gave about the book and the author makes you want to read it.
What I can say is that I am very easily influenced and when I like an artist, I want to learn more about their country. Kundera managed to make me like Czech Republic before I even went there, and when I did, I kept thanking him for writing as he does because his country is amazing, and I maybe would not have been there if I had not read his work.
I am currently reading A Moveable Feast (Paris est une fête), by Ernest Hemingway and I will next be writing about this book and the Lost Generation in general (which I love love love).