Carnivalesque Humour in Milan Kundera's
The Unbearable Lightness of Being and The Book of Laughter and Forgetting
Meghna Christina Mudaliar
Christ University, Bangalore
Perhaps one of the most compelling forms of literary consciousness is the exploration of individual identity and cultural affiliations in the context of totalitarianism. Milan Kundera, exiled Czech novelist, presents a worldview in which individuals struggle not only with personal choices and decisions but also with the severe difficulties of surviving in a country destroyed by political and military agendas. The Unbearable Lightness of Being and The Book of Laughter and Forgetting are two works that particularly represent Kundera's interest in Friedrich Nietszche's concept of the Eternal Return as well as the Bakhtinian carnivalesque idea that laughter--and, by extension, its ideological application in the form of satire, of questioning the validity of authoritarian discourse, and of interrogating the social and political norms through which we structure our communities--is a viable means of constructing discourses that may assist in the reevaluation and also perhaps the reimagining of the ideological and socio-political norms that are usually considered absolute. Fact, as it is said, is a place where fiction has been before.