Themes and Meanings

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

The theme of “The Golden Apple of Eternal Desire”—the womanizer’s unbounded appetite for the chase—is one to which Milan Kundera often returns, most notably in his novel L’Insoutenable Légèreté de l’être (1984; The Unbearable Lightness of Being, 1984). In this short story, the pursuit of the object of desire, rather than its possession, becomes the driving force behind the action. In the novel, the protagonist’s womanizing was potent in its destructiveness of innocence in relationships; in this story, the libidinous episodes always run out of steam before fulfillment. They are rendered impotent, harmless, and more than a little ridiculous.

Martin, happily married and more than forty years of age, maintains the illusion of living a wild and free life. At the same time, he ensures, through such subconscious ruses as making a date with the nurse for seven and having to leave for home at eight, that nothing ever happens. It is the eternal possibility of illicit sex that drives him on, not its achievement. The narrator, too, is a lothario only in his head, inventing an attractive medical student in order to satisfy his friend’s expectations.

Whenever there is a possibility of a fruitful encounter, the two men sabotage it. They stand up a contact to wait for the young woman in white, but have already ruined their chances with her by concocting a tissue of wild lies about film directors that is bound to be blown apart by the first rational mind to enter the scene. At the end of the story, when the narrator and Martin seem to be in line for a real date, the narrator has lost faith in Martin’s ability ever to translate the game into reality, and simply drives away from the women.

The two men end up planning an encounter with the narrator’s fictitious woman in which Martin will play-act as an athlete. The result will be a fake athlete in insincere pursuit of an imaginary woman—the ultimate delusion. The game is futile, but its beauty and integrity lie in that very futility. The quarry is never captured and therefore remains eternally alluring. The Golden Apple of Eternal Desire is best left perfect, whole, and untasted.