The Farewell Party

by Milan Kundera

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Last Updated September 6, 2023.

The Farewell Party by Milan Kundera begins as a comedy in the form of a burlesque, a subgenre which caricatures a serious topic. However, like many of Kundera’s works, The Farewell Party has multiple layers that explore themes of love, hatred, and fate. The story is set in Czechoslovakia during the 1970s, when the country was still part of he Eastern Bloc. This setting and time period is important in establishing the background of Jakub, who was a political prisoner, and Dr. Skreta, who wants to immigrate to the United States (and once gave Jakub a poisonous pill for suicide). The entire story—not including the backstories—takes place at a village spa.

The spa represents rejuvenation, and not just in a physical sense. For instance, couples there are trying to heal relationships and marriages. Another important element in the story is the concept of birth. An old, sickly American man and his wife were desperate to conceive a child. With the help of Dr. Skreta, who is a gynecologist, they are able to do so. On the other hand, Ruzena becomes pregnant after having an affair with Klima. There is a contrasting duality between sickly characters and the act of conception and childbirth as symbolic of a hope for the future.

Milan Kundera constructs a narrative that somewhat resembles a woven basket: individual fates intersect with each other and illustrate the connections between characters. Although the book is stylistically comedic, Kundera explores the dark sides of the human psyche and the negative elements of the human condition. The author does this by showing the dualism in people—the facade that people present to others and the secrets they bury underneath that image. This creates a sense of tension as the reader discovers the true dynamics between the characters and begins to unravel their psychological profiles.

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