In honor of the annual Slow Food conference in Turin this month, I have chosen this lovely small novel from the Czech wunderkind. This is the first novel written in French by Kundera, an expatriate since the Velvet Revolution, and both the length, and some of his witticisms suffer as a result. Nonetheless, this short novel is a gem: tender, witty, intelligent and laugh-out-loud funny in places.
Two tales of seduction, separated by more than two hundred years, interweave and oscillate between the sublime and the comic in this, Kundera's lightest novel. In the 18th century, the marvelous Madame de T. summons a young nobleman to her chamber and gives him an unforgettable lesson in the art of seduction and the pleasures of love. In the same chat at the end of the 20th century, a hapless intellectual experiences a rather less successful night. Distracted by his desire to be the center of attention at a convention of entomologists, Vincent misses the opportunity to be with a beautiful stranger and suffers the ridicule of his peers.
Ruminating on how the pleasures of slowness have disappeared in today's fast-paced, future-shocked world, Kundera explores the secret bond between slowness and memory and the connection between our era's desire to forget and the way we have given ourselves over to the demon of speed. As provocative as it is entertaining, Slowness is Kundera in top form.