Identity – Milan Kundera

Well, I finished Identity, by Milan Kundera. I’d read it for a book club, but wound up missing most of the book club meeting. That’s neither here nor there, however. Most of the participants found the ending to be disappointing. For the most part, I agree. However, as I consider the book more, I wonder if somehow it isn’t more fitting than at first blush.

There are two main characters in Identity: lovers Chantal and Jean-Marc. The focus of the book, I realized later, seems to be Chantal. It’s her identity that’s really being questioned and changed. Jean-Marc strikes me as a static character. He serves as observer of Chantal, often observing at times when she doesn’t even realize he’s there, and as one agent of change in Chantal. His character, though, seems to serve mainly to help us in our exploration of who Chantal is.

It would have helped to see some of that while I was reading Identity. Alas I didn’t, and I will have to reread it someday. It probably won’t be too soon, however, as the book is infused with melancholy, and I find that melancholy is best in small, infrequent doses.

On a final note, Kundera’s voice in Identity is interesting. There’s a simplicity to the narration that contrasts with the complex ideas that the characters seem determined to discuss. I wonder how translation affects that, since Kundera’s native language is Czech, but he wrote Identity in French and I read an English translation.

Book source: Purchased.

One thought on “Identity – Milan Kundera

  1. I just finished reading this book and found myself thinking about the voice too. It is not often that authors address such topics in such a simple way. I read it in Spanish, so I guess we can be certain that the simplicity wasn’t brought by the translation.

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