Last Updated on September 5, 2023, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 151
Milan Kundera's The Joke is about the consequences of making a joke in humorless times. The setting is Czechoslovakia in the years following the 1948 Communist revolution. At this time, Czechoslovakia was under (Stalinist) Communist rule. The protagonist, Ludvik Jahn, writes a postcard to a young woman named Marketa. Marketa is a friend of Ludvik's, although he wishes that they could be more than friends. The trouble begins for Ludvik when he sends a postcard poking fun at the Communist Party to Marketa, who is at an ideology camp for young people. Even though Ludvik is a member of the Party himself, this joke lands him in serious trouble with the authorities. Later in the book, Ludvik meets a woman named Helena Zemankova, who is the wife of a Communist Party member, Pavel Zemanek. The other major character is Kostka, a Christian who serves as somewhat of a foil to Ludvik's character.