Announcing our Top 20 Books of 2022 and Award Winners

Reviews of Ignorance by Milan Kundera

Ignorance

by Milan Kundera

Ignorance by Milan Kundera X
Ignorance by Milan Kundera
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Oct 2002, 208 pages

    Paperback:
    Oct 2003, 208 pages

    Genres

  • Rate this book


Buy This Book

About this Book

Book Summary

"Kundera is so bounteously gifted with insight that even a slender story like that of Ignorance is edifying, filled with intellectual surprises and flashes of the imagination."

A man and a woman meet by chance while returning to their homeland, which they had abandoned twenty years earlier when they chose to become exiles. Will they manage to pick up the thread of their strange love story, interrupted almost as soon as it began and then lost in the tides of history? The truth is that after such a long absence "their memories no longer match." We always believe that our memories coincide with those of the person we loved, that we experienced the same thing. But this is just an illusion. Then again, what can we expect of our weak memory? It records only "an insignificant, minuscule particle" of the past, "and no one knows why it's this bit and not any other bit." We live our lives sunk in a vast forgetting, a fact we refuse to recognize. Only those who return after twenty years, like Odysseus returning to his native Ithaca, can be dazzled and astounded by observing the goddess of ignorance firsthand.

Milan Kundera is the only author today who can take such dizzying concepts as absence, memory, forgetting, and ignorance, and transform them into material for a novel, masterfully orchestrating them into a polyphonic and moving work.

Translated by Linda Asher.

Chapter One


"What are you still doing here?" Her tone wasn't harsh, but it wasn't kindly, either; Sylvie was indignant.

"Where should I be?" Irena asked.

"Home!"

"You mean this isn't my home anymore?"

Of course she wasn't trying to drive Irena out of France or implying that she was an undesirable alien: "You know what I mean!"

"Yes, I do know, but aren't you forgetting that I've got my work here? My apartment? My children?"

"Look, I know Gustaf. He'll do anything to help you get back to your own country. And your daughters, let's not kid ourselves! They've already got their own lives. Good Lord, Irena, it's so fascinating, what's going on in your country! In a situation like that, things always work out."

"But Sylvie! It's not just a matter of practical things, the job, the apartment. I've been living here for twenty years now. My life is here!"

"Your people have a revolution going on!"

Sylvie ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
Introduction
The collapse of the communist regimes of Eastern Europe in 1989 put an end not only to an ideology but to a perennial European character, the Émigré. After decades of being pitied as the Great Victim or despised as the Great Traitor [p. 30], he (or she) was now free to go back home, perhaps even morally obliged to do so. But what is home? Is it merely a place or something more tenuous and less easily attainable? And can someone who's spent half a life in the grip of nostalgia -- "the suffering caused by an unappeased yearning to return" [p. 5] -- emerge from it so easily? These are among the questions that Milan Kundera poses in Ignorance, a novel whose remarkably brief span encompasses two centuries of ...
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Reviews

Media Reviews

Boston Globe
Moving … There is a painful injustice and inequality to memory, which these encounters beautifully illustrate.

Maureen Howard, New York Times Book Review
Erudite and playful...An impassioned account of the émigré as a character on the stage of European history.

New York Times - Michiko Kakutani
Milan's Kundera's resonant new novel Ignorance ….[is] wonderfully nuanced …. affecting.

Newark Star Ledger
[A] beautifully written tale of desire and loss.

Newsweek
His language in this slim but elegant volume is nothing short of masterful.

Oregonian
Kundera is so bounteously gifted with insight that even a slender story like that of Ignorance is edifying, filled with intellectual surprises and flashes of the imagination.

Philadelphia Inquirer
A voice still masterful in its antennae for 'the human condition' … for Milan Kundera, life is plainly elsewhere and where it has always been in the eye of its fiercely intelligent, endlessly ruminative beholder.

Time Out New York
Elegant … the emotional and intellectual payoff is extraordinary.

Los Angeles Times Book Review
Literary excellence … [Kundera's] irony and wit are …on target, his characters vivid and convincing.

Los Angeles Times Book Review
By far his most successful [novel] since The Unbearable Lightness of Being.

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
An entertaining and thought-provoking work

Rocky Mountain News
Kundera is and elegant writer … He does a masterful job of reminding that the political is the personal.

San Francisco Chronicle
Haunting … cascading philosophical, historical and erotic mediations …[and] thunderclaps of insight, absurd metaphors and characters who haplessly misunderstand one another collide in his hypnotically repetitive and bitingly humorous prose.

Washington Post Book World
Kundera once more delivers a seductive, intelligent entertainment … [with] elegance and grace.

Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. With elegant detachment and measured passion, Kundera once again shows himself the master of both the erudite and the carnal in this Mozartain interlude.

Booklist - Gillian Engberg
Part intellectual postulating, part exquisite storytelling, Kundera's profound, unsettling, and expertly crafted novel examines the ultimate immigration--leaving behind what's inherited--and marvels at the power and impossibility of it.

Library Journal
Rendered with compassion and humor.

Library Journal
Though slightly thicker than Kundera's previous French offerings and hinting at the pre-Slowness fiction that won him a rabid following, Ignorance suffers from a seemingly hurried narrative whose end may produce in some fans a nostalgia for Kundera at his deepest and most playful.

Kirkus Reviews
An honorable failure. Kundera's taking himself too seriously is offset by his ability to change the subject again and again-though, at end, nothing adds up to much.

Reader Reviews

april

I hope my grandmother can find one of Milan Kundera's book in the US. She'll like this book too!

Write your own review!

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Readalikes

Read-alikes Full readalike results are for members only

More books by Milan Kundera

If you liked Ignorance, try these:

Non-members are limited to two results. Become a member
Search read-alikes again
How we choose readalikes
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Join and Save 20%!

Become a member and
discover exceptional books.

Find out more


Award Winners

  • Book Jacket: Horse
    Horse
    by Geraldine Brooks
    Voted 2022 Best Fiction Award Winner by BookBrowse Subscribers. Geraldine Brooks creates a ...
  • Book Jacket: In Love
    In Love
    by Amy Bloom
    Voted 2022 Best Nonfiction Award Winner by BookBrowse Subscribers. In 2019, author Amy Bloom and her...
  • Book Jacket: Remarkably Bright Creatures
    Remarkably Bright Creatures
    by Shelby Van Pelt
    Voted 2022 Best Debut Award Winner by BookBrowse Subscribers. Shelby Van Pelt's debut novel, ...

Members Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    Scatterlings
    by Resoketswe Martha Manenzhe

    The debut novel of a gifted storyteller who has become a sensation in her native South Africa.

Wordplay

The Big Holiday Wordplay

Enter Now

Book Club Discussion

Book Jacket
The Bell in the Lake
by Lars Mytting
The engrossing epic novel - a #1 bestseller in Norway - of a young woman whose fate plays out against her village's mystical church bells.
Who Said...

Most of us who turn to any subject we love remember some morning or evening hour when...

Click Here to find out who said this, as well as discovering other famous literary quotes!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.