Critical Context

(Literary Essentials: World Fiction)

Viewed in the context of Kundera’s career, The Farewell Party could be termed his personal farewell to his native country. After the Russian invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968, Kundera was stripped of his university teaching position and his books were banned. He and his wife were allowed to leave Czechoslovakia for France in 1975. Apparently The Farewell Party was substantially completed when he emigrated, though there might have been time for revision before the novel was translated into French and published in 1976. Jakub’s leave-taking in the novel might reflect Kundera’s experience.

In any event, The Farewell Party introduced the theme of exile that has been so prominent in Kundera’s later novels, Kniha smichu a zapomneni (1978; The Book of Laughter and Forgetting, 1980) and Nesnesitelna lehkost byti (1984; The Unbearable Lightness of Being, 1984), both masterpieces. The Farewell Party also introduced the metaphor of “lightness” to describe lack of moral responsibility. In The Farewell Party the theme of lightness is developed through farce and applies to personal behavior. In his later work Kundera has been able to write about the theme more openly and apply it also to a political setting; still, at the same time, much of the comic tone and sexual intrigue of The Farewell Party manages to carry over to the later works, despite their heavy themes.