Ignorance by Milan Kundera, is a work as many of this author, is written in an elegant way and can be said to be an essay and a novel at the same time, with moving reflections that tell us a story of emigration and ignorance towards what it was left.
A notable reference in the whole novel is Ulises, who leaves his native Ithaca for 20 years as one of the protagonists: Irena, who is reunited with an old love that she had in Czechoslovakia, in full apogee of the communist invasion by the Union Soviet, who forced both her and her lover to emigrate from their country.
With a style in constant digression, Kundera tells us the story of these two estranged beings, that when they meet, they seem strangers. Time has played havoc with their memories. Upon returning both to their country, the Czech language becomes something foreign, unfit for their being, forgotten customs and the air that they breathe, strange. It is not until days after her return that Irena begins toassimilate her country, her people and her climate.
For Kundera, exile and solitude have been a key point in his narrative, full of philosophical reflections and giving us more of the characters than a mere graphic description, as some contemporary authors do. The emotions and thoughts of the characters of Ignorance are more important than the plot that can become insipid and colorless due to the exasperation and gray and melancholy tone of the story. It is at this point that Kundera with modern literary resources and thanks to the almost essayistic digressions, reveals to us completely naked characters emotionally and mentally.
Probably this novel is a roman à clef, many of the experiences lived by these characters were common in Czechoslovakia in the 80s, in this way, Kundera speaks with more property about a return full of nostalgia and unsatisfactory. The alienation and isolation of their own country makes the protagonists of Ignorance, Irena and Josef, become strangers in their land.
The novel is written with short passages, chapters with little extension, with beautiful metaphors, phrases and quotes from the author himself. Little by little, we will explore in a world of fiction something real that is the pain of not knowing of our families and loved ones to be abroad. The impregnable truth of that land transition and what it entails after a long period of time is the most important point of this whole story, told thanks to a reflective narrator and melancholic characters.
The result is innovative, as all the work that the author has been doing since “The Unbearable Lightness of Being”, loaded with an apparent simplicity that underlies a deep reflection resulting from the author’s thoughts on certain issues. In this opportunity ignorance and emigration are not strange words to each other, but they fulfill a kind of symbiosis in which one depends on the other, one gives as a result to the other.
The story moves away from the spectacularity of a thriller, the suspense of terror and the creative ambition of fantasy, to give rise to a story that despite being fictitious meets all the parameters to have been a story more of a land resented by an ideological attack and an unwanted revolution. Pride in getting rid of that yoke is latent in some pages of the book.
If you like to think and deliberate after reading a novel, Ignorance will not leave you indifferent. The ability of the author to show us his points of view is impressive, thanks to these conceptual novels. Few authors manage to catch the reader from beginning to end in a novel that is partially an essay because it can be considered dull and boring. However, Kundera with different styles and with a marked polyphony in the whole narrative, keeps us attentive, without giving graphic details as in the movies, but rather encourages us to think, ponder and pause to reflect on the exposed.