like Márquez’s Chronicle of a Death Foretold or Memories of my Melancholy Whores or Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s Poetry as Insurgent Art. There is something about finding titles like those that, I don’t know how to explain it, but grab at me. Beg me to pick them up, take them home, and swallow their words one by one. It’s an odd relationship I have with books, and the titles, I guess, can turn into love at first sight.
the one I just finished? no different. The Book of Laughter and Forgetting.
I had read Milan Kundera’s The Farewell Waltz already, and it had been alright. I liked how it was simultaneously simple and complicated, but it wasn’t what I was looking for. Laughter and Forgetting was nothing like it. It was incredible.
The book travels between short stories, history lessons, and personal anecdotes to tell the story of the fall of Czechoslovakia during the era of the Russian invasion, a story which the author claims is defined by a hopeless laughter of a fallen civilization and the forced forgetfulness that they face in the aftermath. Kundera overlays memories of his father’s dementia over the ceremony of Gustáv Husák becoming an Honorary Young Pioneer mixed in with harsh accounts of fictional eroticism and innocence and death and love. It’s beautiful. I loved it. And I think a major reason I did was because it was so personal, almost like pages of a diary stuffed into a compilation of short stories.
Read it. You’ll see what I mean.