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Milan Kundera: Valcík na rozloucenou (The Farewell Party; Farewell Waltz)

The hero of this novel is called Klíma and, by profession, he is a jazz trumpeter. At the start of the book he receives a phone call from Nurse Ruzena at the spa telling him that she is pregnant and he is the father. From there on in, it is a Czech farce. Is Klíma the father or is he not? How will Klíma’s lovely but sickly wife, Kamila, react? Throw in the Czech ladies cavorting in the baths in the hope that it will make them fertile, Dr Skreta who is inseminating them all with his own semen, Ruzena’s father, a Communist orthodox out to get the enemies of the people with his fellow members of the Citizens’ Corps for Civil Order, and Jakub, victim of the purges and now on the way out of the country, and you get a nice mix of farce, frolic and satire. Of course, Kundera loves his erotic games and making fun of them and he does this to the full in this novel. Even when Ruzena is murdered (by whom?) Kundera still seems to be having fun and though there is clearly a serious side, represented primarily by Jakub who loves his country but knows he must leave it, like Kundera himself, it’s the party more than the farewell that sticks in the mind after reading this book.

Publishing history

First published in Czech by Sixty-Eight Publishers in 1979 (first published in French in 1973)
First published in English by Knopf in 1974
Translated by Aaron Asher