Life Is Elsewhere – Book Review: A Novel by Czech Writer Milan Kundera

A budding poet and his mother are the central character’s of this brilliant book by Milan Kundera. It gives an incredibly candid account of the neurosis that many will have gone through in their adolescence and eventually in their adulthood. Kundera’s insight is both sad and funny but is always gripping.

Plot Summary: Life Is Elsewhere

Set in the author’s home country of the Czech Republic, this book follows the life of a poet from his accidental conception to his sudden death. The poet soon becomes the centre of his mother’s life as her marriage falls apart. No sooner can Jaromil write, than has his mother declares him a poet. As he grows up he tries to live up to the expectations of greatness his mother has bestowed upon him, before trying to rebel against her overbearing love.

Despite his best efforts to forge himself a life free from his mother’s ever watchful eye he can never escape her influence. He becomes a fervent follower of the communist party as a way of carving his own identity. His attempts prove futile as his mother retains her hold on all areas of his life, from his work to the clothes he wears and even the women he loves.

Themes in Life Is Elsewhere

Like many of Milan Kundera’s books, Life is Elsewhere, written in 1973, has several typically existentialist themes. He examines an individual’s search for meaning in their life amid the absurdity, alienation, boredom and angst it often brings. While Kundera deals with issues most people grapple with at some point in their lives, he does so with a refreshing and candid originality.

The book’s narrative begins before the second world war and ends as the Czech’s communist revolution gathers pace. The rise of socialism soon becomes central …

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