Quotes from The Joke

Milan Kundera ·  371 pages

Rating: (22.1K votes)


“I was not a hypocrite, with one real face and several false ones. I had several faces because I was young and didn't know who I was or wanted to be.”
― Milan Kundera, quote from The Joke


“Yes, suddenly I saw it clearly: most people deceive themselves with a pair of faiths: they believe in eternal memory (of people, things, deeds, nations) and in redressibility (of deeds, mistakes, sins, wrongs). Both are false faiths. In reality the opposite is true: everything will be forgotten and nothing will be redressed. The task of obtaining redress (by vengeance or by forgiveness) will be taken over by forgetting. No one will redress the wrongs that have been done, but all wrongs will be forgotten.”
― Milan Kundera, quote from The Joke


“Which doesn't mean, of course, that I'd stopped loving her, that I'd forgotten her, or that her image had paled; on the contrary; in the form of a quiet nostalgia she remained constantly within me; I longed for her as one longs for something definitively lost.”
― Milan Kundera, quote from The Joke


Because to live in a world in which no one is forgiven, where all are irredeemable, is the same as living in hell.
― Milan Kundera, quote from The Joke


“Do stories, apart from happening, being, have something to say? For all my skepticism, some trace of irrational superstition did survive in me, the strange conviction, for example, that everything in life that happens to me also has a sense, that it means something, that life speaks to us about itself through its story, that it gradually reveals a secret, that it takes the form of a rebus whose message must be deciphered, that the stories we live compromise the mythology of our lives and in that mythology lies the key to truth and mystery. Is it an illusion? Possibly, even probably, but I can’t rid myself of the need continually to decipher my own life.”
― Milan Kundera, quote from The Joke



“Optimism is the opium of the people.”
― Milan Kundera, quote from The Joke


“It seemed to me an error in reasoning for a man to isolate a woman he loves from all the circumstances in which he met her and in which she lives, to try, with dogged inner concentration, to purify her of everything that is not her self, which is to say also of the story that they lived through together and that gives their ove its shape.

After all, what I love in a woman is not what she is in and for herself, but the side of herself she turns toward me, what she is for me. I love her as a character in our common love story.”
― Milan Kundera, quote from The Joke


“People who shout joy from the rooftops are often the saddest of all.”
― Milan Kundera, quote from The Joke


“Youth is terrible: it is a stage trod by children in buskins and a variety of costumes mouthing speeches they've memorized and fanatically believe but only half understand. And history is terrible because it so often ends up a playground for the immature; a playground for the young Nero, a playground for the young Bonaparte, a playground for the easily roused mobs of children whose simulated passions and simplistic poses suddenly metamorphose into a catastrophically real reality.”
― Milan Kundera, quote from The Joke


“But which was the real me? Let me be perfectly honest: I was a man of many faces. (p.33)”
― Milan Kundera, quote from The Joke



“A great deal has been said about love at first sight; I am perfectly aware of love's retrospective tendency to make a legend of itself, turn its beginnings into myth; so I don't want to assert that it was love; but I have no doubt there was a kind of clairvoyance at work: I immediately felt, sensed, grasped the essence of Lucie's being or, to be more precise, the essence of what she was later to become for me; Lucie had revealed herself to me the way religious truth reveals itself.”
― Milan Kundera, quote from The Joke


“The psychological and physiological mechanism of love is so complex that at a certain period in his life a young man must concentrate all his energy on coming to grips with it, and in this way he misses the actual content of the love: the woman he loves. (In this he is much like a young violinist who cannot concentrate on the emotional content of a piece until the technique required to play it comes automatically.)”
― Milan Kundera, quote from The Joke


“I understood that there was no escaping the memories, that I was surround by them. (p.30)”
― Milan Kundera, quote from The Joke


“In her presence I could dare everything: sincerity, emotion, pathos.”
― Milan Kundera, quote from The Joke


“What I love in a woman is not what she is in and for herself, but the side of herself she turns towards me, what she is for me. I love her as character in our common love story. what wuld Hamlet be without the castle at Elsinore, without Ophelia, without all the concrete situations he goes through, what would he be without the text of his part? What would be left but an empty, dumb, illusory essence?”
― Milan Kundera, quote from The Joke



“A man may ask anything of a woman, but unless he wishes to behave like a brute, he must make it possible for her to act in harmony with her deepest self-deceptions.”
― Milan Kundera, quote from The Joke


“Only the basic situations in life occur only once, never to return. For a man to be a man, he must be fully aware of this never-to-return. (p.148)”
― Milan Kundera, quote from The Joke


“لقد تأصل لدي عدم التصديق ، إلى حد أنه حين يفضي إليّ امرؤ بما يحب أو لا يحب ، لم أكن أحمل كل هذا على محمل الجد أو لم أكن ، بصورة أكثر دقة ، أرى فيه سوى مجرد شهادة على الصورة التي يريد إعطاءها عن نفسه !.”
― Milan Kundera, quote from The Joke


“It means what you are, wanting what you want and going after it without a sens od shame. People are slaves to rules.”
― Milan Kundera, quote from The Joke


“Today history is no more than a thin thread of the remembered stretching over an ocean of the forgotten, but time moves on, and an epoch of millennia will come which the inextensible memory of the individual will be unable to encompass; whole centuries and millennia will therefore fall away, centuries of paintings and music, centuries of discoveries, of battles, of books, and this will be dire, because man will lose the notion of his self, and his history, unfathomable, unencompassable, will shrivel into a few schematic signs destitute of all sense.”
― Milan Kundera, quote from The Joke



“The churches failed to realize that the working-class movement was the movement of the humiliated and oppressed supplicating for justice. They did not choose to work with and for them to create the kingdom of God on earth. By siding with the oppressors, they deprived the working-class movement of God. And now they reproach it for being godless. The Pharisees!”
― Milan Kundera, quote from The Joke


“All the basic situations in life occur only once, never to return. For a man to be a man, he must be fully aware of this never-to-return. Drink it to the dregs. No cheating allowed. No making believe it's not there. Modern man cheats. He tries to get around all the milestones on the road from birth to death.”
― Milan Kundera, quote from The Joke


“كل ما يهم هو أن يكون المرء كما هو ، ألّا يحمر خجلاً من كونه يريد ما يريد ، يرغب فيما يرغب فيه . الناس عبيد المعايير . قال أحدهم يوماً ، إنه ينبغي للمرء أن يكون مثل هذا أو ذاك وعند ذلك اجتهدوا في أن يكونوه ، ولن يعرفوا قط ما كانوا ولا ماهم عليه ، وبالتالي فهم ليسوا أحداً . يجب على المرء ، فوق كل شىء أن يجرؤ ليكون هو نفسه.”
― Milan Kundera, quote from The Joke


“There was nothing to be done. From then on, there were flowers waiting for me every time we met, and in the end I gave in, because I was disarmed by the spontaneity of giving and understood tha Lucie cared for it; perhaps her tongue-tied state, her lack of verbal eloquence, made her think of flowers as a form of speech; not in the sense of heavy-handed conventional flower symbolism, but in a sense still more archaic, more nebulous, more instinctive, prelinguistic; perhaps, having always been sparing of words, she longed for that mute stage of evolution when there were no words and people communicated by simple gestures”
― Milan Kundera, quote from The Joke


“Most people willingly deceive themselves with a doubly false faith; they believe in eternal memory (of men, things, deeds, peoples) and in rectification (of deeds, errors, sins, injustice). Both are sham. The truth lies at the opposite end of the scale: everything will be forgotten and nothing will be rectified. All rectification (both vengeance and forgiveness) will be taken over by oblivion.”
― Milan Kundera, quote from The Joke



“Lucie had been many things to me: a child, a source of comfort, a balm, an escape from myself; she was literaly everything for me but a woman.”
― Milan Kundera, quote from The Joke


“لا شىء يُقارب بين الناس بهذه السرعة مثل اتفاق حزين ، كئيب . هذا الجو من التواطؤ المسالم الذي ينيّم أي نوع من المخاوف أو المكابح وتفهمه النفوس المُهذبة كالنفوس العامية ؛ يمثل أسهل نمط للتقارب !.”
― Milan Kundera, quote from The Joke


“كنت فريسة الخوف، الخوف من هذا الافق الباعث على الرجاء. وكنت أحس بروحي تنطوي على ذاتها ، أحسها تتقهقر، وكنت مرعوبا من فكرة أنه لم يبق لها أمام هذا الحصار سوى الهرب .”
― Milan Kundera, quote from The Joke


“Who was the real me? I can only repeat: I was a man of many faces.

At meetings I was earnest, enthusiastic, and committed; among friends, unconstrained and given to teasing; with Marketa, cynical and fitfully witty; and alone (and thinking of Marketa), unsure of myself and as agitated as a schoolboy.

Was the last face the real one?

No. They were all real: I was not a hypocrite, with one real face and several false ones. I had several faces because I was young and didn’t know who I was or wanted to be. (I was frightened by the differences between one face and the next; none of them seemed to fit me properly, and I groped my way clumsily among them.)”
― Milan Kundera, quote from The Joke


“من الصعب العيش مع أشخاص مستعدين لإرسالك إلى المنفى او الموت ، من الصعب أن تصنع منهم أصدقاء حميمين ، كما من الصعب أن تحبهم !.”
― Milan Kundera, quote from The Joke



About the author

Milan Kundera
Born place: in Brno, Czech Republic
Born date April 1, 1929
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