Kundera’s seminal novel “The Unbearable Lightness of Being” was my favorite book out of last year’s readings and is easily in my top 10 books of all time. “Identity” is a great read -and I highly recommend it- but it’s not the same caliber as his magnum opus.
Kundera’s writing is a blatant rejection of the irritating “show, don’t tell” mantra often pelting writers in workshops and MFA programs -his prose is so magnificently constructed that at no point does the reader ever forget they are reading a Novel in the strictest sense (and, yes, he is going to break the fourth wall at some point). There are always questions being asked in his writing -often questions too sprawling and interdependent to be asked in any other way than his latticework novelization.
“Identity” is a short treatment of an intriguing set of questions. What is the nature of our perception of the identities of those people whom we love? Is their identity -in relation to us- defined by our perception? Is it ontological or external, subject to change, capable of disappearing under the blinking of our eyes? Kundera’s wonderful novella-treatment of these ideas is rewarding and magnetic, even if it falls short of his very best.
Recommendation: Read it. Or read “Unbearable Lightness” first. Give yourself time to chew on the questions raised -in either case.