Monday 3 February 2020

Book Review: Farewell Waltz by Milan Kundera (Contemporary Fiction)

Title: Farewell Waltz
Author: Milan Kundera
Publisher: Faber & Faber

Publication Date: 1998 (1972)
Contemporary Fiction
Bought Copy

Klima, a celebrated jazz trumpeter, receives a phone call announcing that a young nurse with whom he spent a brief night at a fertility spa is pregnant. She has decided he is the father.

And so begins a comedy in which, during five madcap days, events unfold with ever-increasing speed. Klima's beautiful, jealous wife; the nurse's equally jealous boyfriend; a fanatical gynecologist; a rich American, at once Don Juan and saint; and an elderly political prisoner who, just before his emigration, is holding a farewell party at the spa, are all drawn into this black comedy, as in A Midsummer Night's Dream.

As usual, Milan Kundera poses serious questions with a blasphemous lightness which makes us understand that the modern world has taken away our right to tragedy. 

It's well known that I am a fan of Milan Kundera's writing, and this year I decided to make an effort to finish the last handful of his books that I haven't yet read, and Farewell Waltz is one of them. It's clear to see this is an early work, as it lacks some of the clarity of thought of his later writing. However, it does include his trademark elements, including finding depth in what, at first glance, would appear to be a light, frivolous story. In this case, the book could have been little more than a sexual romp, almost a farce, but under Kundera's pen it raises questions about gender perceptions, relationships, dealing with a troubled past, and death. If you are new to Kundera's works, I wouldn't recommend this as a starting point, but if you are already a fan, this one is, of course, worth checking out.

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