The Farewell Party

by Milan Kundera

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Last Updated on September 6, 2023, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 440

The Farewell Party is 1972 novel by the Czech author Milan Kundera. It was completed in Bohemia in 1971 or 1972, according to Kundera's note, and first appeared in English in 1976. There is an updated translation by Aaron Asher, re-titled The Farewell Waltz. Like much of Kundera's work, it deals with sex, love, philosophy, Communism, and European politics and culture.

The book is broken up into five sections, each corresponding to one day. The novel opens with the line "Autumn had arrived and the trees are turning yellow, red, brown; the small spa town in its pretty valley seems to be surrounded by flames." The first section introduces us to Ruzena, a nurse who is not particularly well liked by her co-workers. She works in the town she grew up in and finds out that she is pregnant by Klima, a married trumpet player with whom she had a brief affair when he was in town for a concert. He has forgotten about the relationship, but, hearing of the pregnancy, he returns to the spa town to convince her to have an abortion.

On the second day, Klima arrives in the town to meet with Ruzena. Klima discusses his problem with two friends: Bertlef, a wealthy American, and Skreta, a gynecologist who has helped a number of infertile couples, including Bertlef and his wife. Though married, Klima proclaims his love for Ruzena and asks her not to have the baby. Also in this section, the characters of Jakub, a former political prisoner who is planning to leave the country, and Olga, his ward, are introduced. Dr. Skreta once made a pill for Jakub, which would kill him if ingested, so as to prevent his being captured again.

On the third day, Jakub's lethal pill gets mixed up with Ruzena's medicinal pills, and she ends up with the deadly pill. Jakub tries to track her down and goes to see Dr. Skreta, who confesses that he uses his own semen to help couples get pregnant and that there seem to be a number of children around town with his nose. The section conclude with Ruzema and Bertlef spending the night together.

On day four, Jakub leaves town and Klima is frantically trying to find Ruzena, ignoring his wife in the process. They argue, and Ruzena takes Jakub's pill, which kills her. The police determine that is was an accident.

On day five, Klima's wife decides to leave him, Jakub says goodbye to his home, and Bertlef notices the distinctive nose of his son. The final line is "Then the four of them walked off under the platform lights and away from the railroad station."

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