Essay 6 final - Andrew Bernstein COM L 108.01 Essay 6 Draft...

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Andrew Bernstein COM L 108.01 November 27, 2007 Essay 6 Draft B Kundera and Desnoes: Similarity in the Past How do Kundera’s Book of Laughter and Forgetting and Desnoes’ Memories of Underdevelopment compare in the way their characters view their past and the portrayal of women? Characters in many novels share a common theme of having problems dealing with their past. Some try to forget everything that has happened to them, while some attempt to alter their history to change certain details out of sheer embarrassment. Mirek, Marketa, and Tamina in Milan Kundera’s Book of Laughter and Forgetting and Edmundo Desnoes’ narrator in Memories of Underdevelopment all have unresolved issues with their pasts that constantly haunt them. In sharp contrast to the commonality of history in these two works, the women in each novel are portrayed quite differently. Kundera’s women are strong and well developed, while Desnoes’ narrator portrays women in a very negative light. The Book of Laughter and Forgetting and Memories of Underdevelopment illustrate former times in comparable light, yet still are unique in their representations of the nature of women, thus leading to two novels that are very complimentary.
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Milan Kundera’s novel is a combination of seven short stories that are united by shared common characteristics. Kundera’s characters all have issues with memories and their desires to forget their pasts. Mirek, the main character of the first chapter of the novel, has an overwhelming desire to forget a lover from his past who happens to be extremely unattractive. In dealing with women, Mirek has learned that women judge men not on how attractive they are, but by how attractive the women they have had relationships with are. For he was aware of the great secret of life: Women don’t look for handsome men. Women look for men who have had beautiful women. Having an ugly mistress is therefore a fatal mistake. Mirek tried hard to sweep away all traces of Zdena, and since the nightingale-lovers hated him more with every passing day, he hoped that Zdena, busy making her career in the party, would swiftly and gladly forget him. (Kundera 16) Due to this knowledge, Mirek has developed an obsession with erasing Zdena from his past just as Gottwald had Clementis erased from a Czech picture (Kundera 3). This actual example of the alteration of history foreshadows the intentions of many of the main characters in this novel. Mirek’s desire to erase his past with Zdena introduces the reader to the first of many instances in The Book of Laughter and Forgetting in which a character desires to forget a past significant other. A second character in Kundera’s novel who tries to forget a part of her past is Marketa. Marketa is the wife of Karel, and the relationship between the two has become strained due to Karel’s womanizing. In the first few weeks of Karel and Marketa’s love, they had agreed that Karel would see other women and that Marketa would allow it (Kundera 51).
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