Milan Kundera


Czech-born French Writer, Playwright and Author who lived in exiled in France

Author Quotes

Totalitarianism is not only hell, but all the dream of paradise-- the age-old dream of a world where everybody would live in harmony, united by a single common will and faith, without secrets from one another. Andre Breton, too, dreamed of this paradise when he talked about the glass house in which he longed to live. If totalitarianism did not exploit these archetypes, which are deep inside us all and rooted deep in all religions, it could never attract so many people, especially during the early phases of its existence. Once the dream of paradise starts to turn into reality, however, here and there people begin to crop up who stand in its way. And so the rulers of paradise must build a little gulag on the side of Eden. In the course of time this gulag grows ever bigger and more perfect, while the adjoining paradise gets even smaller and poorer.

We can never establish with certainty what part of our relations with others is the result of our emotions -- love, antipathy, charity, or malice -- and what part is predetermined by the constant power play among individuals.

The novelist teaches the reader to comprehend the world as a question. There is wisdom and tolerance in that attitude. In a world built on sacrosanct certainties the novel is dead.

The purpose of the poetry is not to dazzle us with an astonishing thought, but to make one moment of existence unforgettable and worthy of unbearable nostalgia.

The time of life became for him a mere obstacle to be overcome at increasing speeds.

Then he realized with surprise that he was not unhappy. The physical presence of Sabina, was much less important than it had expected. What mattered was the golden mark I had left in his life and no one could take away.

There may be situations (in dictatorial regimes, for example) take a public position which is dangerous for the dancer it is however a little less than the other, because, having walked under the spotlight, visible everywhere, it is protected by the world's attention, but it has its anonymous admirers who, in obedience to his call as splendid reflections, signing petitions, participating in prohibited meetings, protesting in the streets, those be treated rudely and the dancer will never yield to the temptation of sentimental accused of having caused their misfortune, knowing that noble cause weighs more than the lives of so and so.

Thomas said, making love with a woman and sleeping with a woman are two passions, not only different, but almost contradictory. Love is not manifested in the desire to get laid this desire occurs countless women, but sleeping with someone (this desire occurred relative of one wife).

To put it another way, every love relationship is based upon unwritten conventions rashly agreed upon by the lovers during the first weeks of their love. On the one hand, they are living a sort of dream; on the other, without realizing it, they are drawing up the fine print of their contracts like the most hard-nosed of lawyers. O lovers! Be wary during those perilous first days! If you serve the other party breakfast in bed, you will be obliged to continue same in perpetuity or face charges of animosity and treason!

Translators tend to enrich the dictionary: Testing (instead of there), went so far , went farther, entered deeper (instead of further away ) can choke , gasps (instead of suffocates ), foot (instead of go). (Note horror felt by all translators in the world by the words I and I! They are ready to do anything to replace them with the word considered not so trivial.)

We can never know what to want, because, living only one life, we can neither compare it with our previous lives nor perfect it in our lives to come... There is no means of testing which decision is better, because there is no basis for comparison. We live everything as it comes, without warning, like an actor going on cold. And what can life be worth if the first rehearsal for life is life itself? That is why life is always like a sketch. No, sketch is not quite the word, because a sketch is an outline of something, the groundwork for a picture, whereas the sketch that is our life is a sketch for nothing, an outline with no picture.

The novel's spirit is the spirit of complexity. . . . The novel's spirit is the spirit of continuity . . . a thing made to last, to connect the past with the future.

The reason claimed to dominate the future, having the power to change history is nothing else.

The time of man is not circling round, and rode in a straight line forward. And here lies the reason a person cannot achieve happiness, because happiness is the longing for repetition.

Then there is the third category, the category of people who need to be constantly before the eyes of the person they love. Their situation is a dangerous as the situation in the first category. One day the eyes of their beloved will close, and the room will go dark.

There was nothing to be done. From then on, there were flowers waiting for me every time we met, and in the end I gave in, because I was disarmed by the spontaneity of giving and understood that Lucie cared for it; perhaps her tongue-tied state, her lack of verbal eloquence, made her think of flowers as a form of speech; not in the sense of heavy-handed conventional flower symbolism, but in a sense still more archaic, more nebulous, more instinctive, pre-linguistic; perhaps, having always been sparing of words, she longed for that mute stage of evolution when there were no words and people communicated by simple gestures

Those boobs of yours are ubiquitous - like God!

To rebel against being born a woman seemed as foolish to her as to take pride in it.

True human goodness, in all its purity and freedom, can come to the fore only when its recipient has no power. Mankind's true moral test, its fundamental test (which is deeply buried from view), consists of its attitude towards those who are at its mercy: animals.

The old duality of body and soul has become shrouded in scientific terminology, and we can laugh at it as merely an obsolete prejudice. But just make someone who has fallen in love listen to his stomach rumble, and the unity of body and soul, that lyrical illusion of the age of science, instantly fades away.

The reason is that everyone has trouble accepting the fact that he will disappear unheard of and unnoticed in an indifferent universe, and everyone wants to make himself into a universe of words before it's too late.

The Transformation of music into noise was a planetary process by which mankind was entering the historical phase of total ugliness. The total ugliness to come had made itself felt first as omnipresent acoustical ugliness: cars, motorcycles, electric guitars, drills, loudspeakers, sirens. The omnipresence of visual ugliness would soon follow.

There are books of the day and other books cannot be read only at night.

There was pleasure in Paradise but no excitement.

Those who consider the Devil to be a partisan of Evil and angels to be warriors for Good accept the demagogy of the angels. Things are clearly more complicated.

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Czech-born French Writer, Playwright and Author who lived in exiled in France