||This article is written like a personal reflection or opinion essay rather than an encyclopedic description of the subject. (August 2011)|
1st English edition
(publ. Grove Weidenfeld)
|Published in English||1991|
Immortality (Czech: Nesmrtelnost) is a novel in seven parts, written by Milan Kundera in 1988 in Czech. First published 1990 in French. English edition 345 p., translation by Peter Kussi. This novel springs from a casual gesture of a woman, seemingly to her swimming instructor. Immortality is the last of a trilogy that includes The Book Of Laughter And Forgetting, and The Unbearable Lightness Of Being.
The novel begins with a woman's wave to her swim instructor: "She walked around the pool toward the exit. She passed the lifeguard, and after she had gone some three or four steps beyond him, she turned her head, smiled, and waved to him. At that instant I felt a pang in my heart! That smile and that gesture belonged to a twenty-year-old girl! Her arm rose with bewitching ease. It was as if she were playfully tossing a brightly colored ball to her lover. That smile and that gesture had charm and elegance, while the face and the body no longer had any charm. It was the charm of a gesture drowning in the charmlessness of the body. But the woman, though she must of course have realized that she was no longer beautiful, forgot that for the moment. There is a certain part of all of us that lives outside of time. Perhaps we become aware of our age only at exceptional moments and most of the time we are ageless. In any case, the instant she turned, smiled, and waved to the young lifeguard (who couldn’t control himself and burst out laughing), she was unaware of her age. The essence of her charm, independent of time, revealed itself for a second in that gesture and dazzled me. I was strangely moved. And then the word Agnes entered my mind. Agnes. I had never known a woman by that name."
Divided into seven parts, Immortality centers on Agnes, her sister Laura and her husband Paul. Part One: the Face establishes these characters. Part Two: Immortality depicts Goethe's fraught relationship with Bettina, a young woman who aspires to create a place for herself in the pantheon of history by controlling Goethe's legacy after his death. Part Three: Fighting returns to Agnes and Laura, detailing the deteriorating state of Laura's relationship with Bernard Bertrand. Part Four: Homo Sentamentalis chronicles Goethe's afterlife and postmortem friendship with Ernest Hemingway. Part Five: Chance sees Agnes' death, and intersects these fictional events with Kundera's seemingly autobiographical account of a conversation with Professor Avenarius. Part Six: the Dial introduces a new character, Rubens, who had an affair with Agnes years prior to the onset of the main events in the plot. Part Seven: the Celebration concludes the novel in the same health club where Kundera first observed the inspirational wave gesture.
- "Novel Re-examined In a Novel by Kundera". Retrieved 2010-01-09.