In a lyrical meditation on speed and time, technology and the body, escape and engagement, memory and forgetting, he follows very early on with the core question he is asking - Why has the pleasure of slowness disappeared? I have to say, before anything else, that I loved the ending of this book, where two characters - one from the eighteenth century, the other from the end of the twentieth, bump into one another. It was quite genius really. Wish I could say the same for the rest of it. Using the telescoping of time, Slowness takes place over a single night, and after the opening section, a parallel journey begins, one that is recounted in a novella Kundera has been reading - Point de Lendemain by Vivant Denon, who was an 18th-century libertine that remained anonymous.
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It is told through a number of plot lines that slowly weave together until they are all united at the end of the book. Kundera, as narrator, visits a chateau on vacation and tells a story that seems to be a combination of fiction and fact. A Chevalier from eighteenth-century France visits the chateau and experiences a night of carefully orchestrated sensual pleasure with its owner, Madame de T.
Berck, a "dancer", meets a woman who once scorned him at the same conference and shows his emptiness to her. By the end of the book, all of these plots have been brought together in a single location and the characters interact, showing how the ideals they represent interact in the world.
Kundera even manages to tie the modern to the past by having Vincent meet the Chevalier as they both depart. By having these characters meet, Kundera again illustrates how the idea of sensuality and pleasure have changed as technology provides humanity with tools that speed us to our destination and demand our attention.
Characters in "Slowness"[ edit ] For a page novel, there are a large number of characters in this book. Many of them have heavy symbolic qualities and their interactions appear to be a way in which Kundera is illustrating the philosophy he directly describes in the dialog of the story.
Milan The narrator who tells the story. His interaction with the story is both as creator and a participant. Strangely, the story overflows into his own life. She also makes several observations and prophetic statements. Chevalier An unknown chevalier from eighteenth century France. The Chevalier is seduced by Madame de T and later becomes a way for the narrator to illustrate an unhurried and sensual lifestyle. Madame de T Seduces the Chevalier.
Gentle protective liar. Guardian of happiness. Vincent A friend of Milan who travels to the chateau for a conference. Hates the concept of "the dancer" but transforms into one as the night progresses. Is a modern man who speeds from place to place and gets so caught up in the idea of passion that his pursuit of it prevents him from enjoying it. Berck The archetypical "dancer" of the novel. Embodies the problems that modern technology creates, especially for those who seek fame.
Has a complex and symbolic relationship with the cameraman. His relationship with her is complex. He observes everything Immaculata does and influences her actions, but in the end is under her control. Despite having a substantial presence in the story, the cameraman is unnamed.
He has come to believe he is among the "elect" even though he played his role in the event only out of cowardice. His encounter with Berck illustrates an encounter between one of the "elect" and a dancer.
Slowness[ edit ] There is no single central theme in the book, although the title suggests that the speed of modern living is the key concept that is the root cause of the events of the book. Several events in the book are tied to the speed of movement, such as speeding cars or slow walks through a garden.
Kundera ties slowness to the act of remembering, and speed to the act of forgetting. When one wants to savour, remember, or prolong a moment, one moves and acts slowly. On the other hand, one travels fast in order to forget a past experience. There is also the suggestion that speed creates vulgarity, as suggested by the parallel seductions held at the chateau.
Speed and failure are also associated as Vera comments that slowness has protected Milan in the past. This suggests that serious consideration requires slowness; speed encourages rash decisions and ultimately failure. Modernity and the Dancer[ edit ] Kundera introduces the concept of the dancer early in the book. The dancer, defined in the story, is a person who constantly seeks the infinite and invisible audience that modern media offers.
The fame that a successful dancer gathers has a dramatic effect on the life of the dancer and upon people who seek out the dancer those who consider themselves "elect". The entire storyline of Berck and Immaculata seems to represent this theme both in the literal story that is told as well as through the symbolism of their names and actions.
English translation by Linda Asher, pp. Speed Metaphysical speculation was once happily married to the novel, practiced to great effect by masters like Voltaire and Diderot. Since the end of the Enlightenment, however, the philosophical novel -- as opposed to the novel of ideas or the novel of social protest -- has become a rarity. Milan Kundera, who has more or less single-handedly reinvented the form for his own use, is careful to point out that his novels are not engaged in the translation of philosophy into fiction. His modus operandi is to bring ideas into play -- floating hypotheses, improvising, interrogating. But this richness is anything but disparate: Mr.