How far is The Joke a political novel?

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Doug Stuva eNotes educator| Certified Educator

At least one famous critic dismisses Milan Kundera's The Joke as a political novel relevant mainly to the Soviet era, but this is a mistake.  The novel is about life/existence within a communist/dictatorial regime, and attitudes and behaviors do emerge naturally out of that setting (evidence of Kundera's skills).  But the ideas and themes of the novel certainly extend to life outside of the political system.   

The novel is famous for its seven-part structure, for its treatment of music, for its use of Czech folk tales, for its love stories.

It features fundamentalistic, over-zealous "true believers," and example after example of human cruelty.   It features the blindly loyal and the naive.  It features a longing for a simpler past, and a woman who snores.  None of these is exclusively political.   

The novel should not be dismissed or categorized as simply a political novel.   

One concrete example of the novel's relevance is the idea that people suffer from "bleak erotic horizons."  Is this not true, or at least possibly true, in most places at most times? 

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The Joke

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