Kundera's essay has been written like a novel. In the course of nine separate sections, the same characters meet and cross paths with each other. Stravinsky and Kafka with their odd friends Ansermet and Brod; Hemingway with his biographer; Janacek with his little nation; and Rabelais with his heirs - the great novelists.
In the light of their wisdom this book examines some of the great situations of our time. The moral trial of the twentieth century's art, from Celine to Mayakovsky; the passage of time which blurs the boundaries between the 'I' of the present day and the 'I' of the past; modesty as an essential concept in an age based on the individual and indiscretion which, as it becomes the habit and the norm, heralds the twilight of individualism; the testaments, the betrayed testaments - of Europe, of art, of the art of the novel and of artists.
The French-Czech novelist Milan Kundera was born in the Czech Republic and has lived in France since 1975. He is the author of the internationally acclaimed and bestselling novels The Joke, Life is Elsewhere, The Farewell Waltz, The Book of Laughter and Forgetting, The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Immortality, and the short-story collection Laughable Loves -- all originally in Czech. His more recent novels , Slowness, Identity, and Ignorance, as well as his nonfiction works, The Art of the Novel, Testaments Betrayed, The Curtain, and Encounter, were originally written in French.