Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)


Klima, a rich and famous jazz trumpeter. Klima is a polite and gallant gentleman who loves his wife immensely yet needs to be with other women occasionally. For him, these affairs strengthen the erotic passion of his marriage. Deep down, he dreads all women and feels doomed to fall victim to the power that pregnancy gives them over men. This fear is realized when Ruzena makes her paternity claim on him. He is generally a calm, reasonable, and clear-thinking man, but in trying to persuade Ruzena to have an abortion, his nerves overcome him and cause him inadvertently to say and do things he later regrets. A clever and imaginative liar, Klima ultimately is a bumbler and muddles through only by luck and the intervention of others. Professionally, he loves playing the trumpet but is not truly comfortable with his fame as an artist. Too much attention worries him.


Ruzena, a nurse at a health and fertility spa in the mountains. Ruzena is a forthright and hard-edged young woman, a moderately attractive blond in a desolate rural existence. She envies the wealthy married women she attends and fears that she will have to settle for a life with Franta, whom she loathes but tolerates. She likes power and longs for excitement. She spends one night with Klima and convinces herself that he is therefore responsible for her pregnancy, which offers a way out of her current existence. At first, she is determined to have the baby. She is swayed by those around her, however—her friends one way and Klima the other—and ends up confused and indecisive, not knowing what she wants or whom she can trust.


Bartleff, an older American patient at the spa. Bartleff is a jovial bon vivant who, in spite of serious illness, energetically loves and affirms life. He is married to a younger woman who recently bore him (he assumes) a son. He is intelligent and well read, especially in religion and philosophy, and he paints striking religious pictures as a hobby. Talkative, generous, and often theatrical, he usually is the center of attention.


(The entire section is 872 words.)

The Characters

(Literary Essentials: World Fiction)

Some reviewers of The Farewell Party, seeing the novel as just another conventional farce, complained about the shallowness of the characters. Critic Saul Maloff, writing in The New York Times Book Review, was more perceptive: “The Farewell Party is the kind of ‘political novel’ a cunning, resourceful, gifted writer writes when it is no longer possible to write political novels.” In other words, the conditions of political oppression under which Milan Kundera wrote The Farewell Party, at a time when he was out of favor with the Czech Communist regime, must be considered. If they are, then Maloff’s interpretation seems to be not only consistent with the nature of Kundera’s other novels but also enlightening, offering the best understanding of the characters in The Farewell Party.

The farcical characters do not merely provide conventional entertainment; their shallowness also represents a judgment on the political system that produced them. Rejecting the traditional moorings of Christian humanism, the Communists anchor their morality in the ideals of economic justice, brotherhood, and loyalty to the state. The difficulty of realizing these ideals without the traditional moorings, without the deeper sense of personal responsibility and integrity which is espoused by Christian humanism, is apparent in characters such as Klima, Ruzena, and Skreta. With their selfish, self-centered natures, they are no better than petty...

(The entire section is 605 words.)