The myth of the great return: memory, longing and forgetting in Milan Kundera's Ignorance

Doloughan, Fiona J. (2004). The myth of the great return: memory, longing and forgetting in Milan Kundera's Ignorance. In: Hanne, Michael ed. Creativity in Exile. Rodopi Perspectives on Modern Literature (29). Amsterdam and New York, NY, U.S.: Rodopi, pp. 141–150.



In this paper Fiona Doloughan argues that Milan Kundera, in his recent novel Ignorance (2002), explores the condition of exile in ways which go against readerly expectation. On the literal level, he portrays two characters for whom the longed-for return to their Czech homeland offers little fulfillment, as they discover that life in their adopted countries (Denmark and France)has more reality for them than what they have returned to find. Moreover, they realise that other people's perceptions of them as displaced or in exile run counter to their own sense of being at home in their new countries. Doloughan suggests, however, is equally interested in the themes of exile and return on a metaphorical level. Through repeated allusions to the Odyssey he poses the question of whether, especially in the modern world, not only any notion of return to an unaltered homeland, but the possibility of recovering memories of the past with any accuracy and completeness, are always illusory. both on the actual and the metaphorical level, the exilic condition is one where past and present, old and new, coexist and intermingle. Structurally, too, in this novel Kundera interweaves the lives of the characters and narrative threads in such a way that none of them can be followed without reference to another.

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