Milan Kundera’s ‘Identity’

“No love can survive muteness” – Milan Kundera (Identity)

Identity is one of my favorite novels by Milan Kundera (the famous author of The Unbearable Lightness of Being), a story of two lovers whose emotional insecurity degenerates into full-blown identity crisis. As someone once said, Kundera is an expert on human interplay, and this book is an excellent example.

Through his examination of the relationship between the two protagonists and how it develops throughout the novel, Kundera examines two important aspects of identity, and two questions that seem to be central to the plot:
Do we develop our identities regardless of others, or is identity defined only in terms of ‘the other’?
Do we ‘create’ our identity or do we just ‘find out’ about it?

Below are some memorable quotes from the novel:

“How could she feel nostalgia when he was right in front of her? How can you suffer from the absence of a person who is present?
You can suffer nostalgia in the presence of the beloved if you glimpse a future where the beloved is no more.”

“To ensure that the self doesn’t shrink, to see that it holds on to its volume, memories have to be watered like potted flowers, and the watering calls for regular contact with the witnesses of the past, that is to say, with friends.”

“Pain doesn’t listen to reason; it has its own reason, which is not reasonable.”

“He represented the abolition of all possibilities; he was the reduction of her life to one single possibility.”

“Having lost my ambition, I suddenly found myself at the margin of the world. And, what was even worse: I had no desire to be anywhere else.”


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