Forugh Puryavari is the translator of the book that describes how a student’s private joke derails his life, and the entwined stories of his lovers and friends grappling with the shifting roles of folk traditions and religion under Communist Czechoslovakia.
All too often, this brilliant novel of thwarted love and revenge miscarried has been read for its political implications.
Now though, a quarter century after “The Joke” was first published, and several years after the collapse of the Soviet-imposed Czechoslovak regime, it becomes easier to put such implications into perspective in favor of valuing the book (and all Kundera’s work) as what it truly is: great, stirring literature, that sheds new light on the eternal themes of human existence.
Kundera is a Czech and French writer of Czech origin who has lived in exile in France since 1975, where he became a naturalized French citizen in 1981. He is best known for “The Unbearable Lightness of Being”, “The Book of Laughter and Forgetting” and “The Joke”.
Kundera has written in both Czech and French. He revises the French translations of all his books; these, therefore, are not considered translations but original works.
Due to censorship by the Communist government of Czechoslovakia, his books were banned from his native country, and that remained the case until the downfall of this government in the Velvet Revolution of 1989.