Rare is it that I devour a book within a couple of hours. Rarer that I find myself unable to lift my eyes from a book when I am in a moving bus. Yesterday on my way back from the Tinsel Town I started Milan Kundera's Slowness and before I knew it, I had turned the last page, having spent two hours nodding in admiration at the weight in the words chosen to weave this delightfully tongue-in-cheek oeuvre!
A philosophical treatise that raises more questions than it answers, Slowness analyses slowness and speed, memory and speed, hedonism and exhibitionism, the art of (amorous) conversation and orgasms with a brilliantly cold detachment. At the same time, Slowness narrates two intertwined tales of seduction juxtaposed against another midsummer night's seduction in the 18th century...and all this is staged in the same castle where the narrator is spending the weekend with his wife and an entomologists' conference is taking place.
I loved the wicked humour in the exchanges between the two couples, especially in the scene between Vincent and Julia and was completely bowled over by the philosophical arguments on the various subjects.
A novel that fills you with grotesque horror at times yet forces an unbridled laughter out of you and succeeds in making you think and realise how shallow and pretentious and sordid modern civilisation can be and is, Slowness delights, enthralls and makes you bow down to the sheer genius that is Milan Kundera.
I leave you with the customary excerpt, though the urge to type out half the book is great:
Being among the elect is a theological notion that means: not as a matter of merit but by a supernatural judgement, a free, even capricious, determination of God, a person is chosen for something exceptional and extraordinary...
...the feeling of being elect is present, for instance, in every love relation. For love is by definition an unmerited gift; being loved without meriting it is the very proof of real love. If a woman tells me: I love you because you're intelligent, because you're decent, because you buy me gifts, because you don't chase women, because you do the dishes, then I'm disappointed; such love seems a rather self-interested business. How much finer it is to hear: I'm crazy about you even though you're neither intelligent nor decent, even though you're a liar, an egotist, a bastard.