The Farewell Party

by Milan Kundera

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Last Updated September 6, 2023.

Reproductive Rights and Restrictions

The women who come to the spa in The Farewell Party seek help with fertility issues. The plot includes the conflict between Klima, a former guest, and Ruzena, a nurse who becomes pregnant after they have a one-night stand. He pressures her to have an abortion, which she initially resists.

More generally, the spa’s director, Dr. Skreta, is engaged in unethical research and practices, as he uses his own sperm to impregnate countless women. In stark contrast to the practices of the doctor, Jakub, a former political prisoner, believes that humankind is unworthy of self-perpetuation.

Freedom and Individualism

The characters frequently discuss the limits of human freedom. Klima’s profession and status as an artist are contrasted to the conformist pressures around him. The value of life and individuals’ freedom to take their own life is symbolized by the suicide pill that Skreta provided to Jakub and Jakub’s consequent vacillation over using it.

Opposing the restrictive system is the wealthy American, Bartleff, who promotes individual liberation through both Christianity and self-interest. Olga, Jakub’s ward, epitomizes the commitment to individual responsibility for ethical choices.

Political Repression

The burden of an oppressive political system is felt throughout the novel. Rather than engaging in organized opposition, each character is shown trying to cope in their own particular way. The execution of Olga’s father in years past and Jakub’s former imprisonment are specters of the Stalinist-era repression. Skreta’s megalomaniacal attempts to populate the country with his own offspring stand for the inescapable power of external forces. Ruzena’s father and his friends, the zealous dog-catchers, parallel the police who support the authoritarian state.

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