The Festival of Insignificance

The Festival of Insignificance

A Novel

Book - 2015 | First edition.
Average Rating:
Rate this:

From the internationally acclaimed, bestselling author of The Unbearable Lightness of Being, an unexpected and enchanting novel--the culmination of his life's work.

Casting light on the most serious of problems and at the same time saying not one serious sentence; being fascinated by the reality of the contemporary world and at the same time completely avoiding realism--that's The Festival of Insignificance. Readers who know Milan Kundera's earlier books know that the wish to incorporate an element of the "unserious" in a novel is not at all unexpected of him. In Immortality, Goethe and Hemingway stroll through several chapters together talking and laughing. And in Slowness, Vera, the author's wife, says to her husband: "you've often told me you meant to write a book one day that would have not a single serious word in it...I warn you: watch out. Your enemies are lying in wait."

Now, far from watching out, Kundera is finally and fully realizing his old aesthetic dream in this novel that we could easily view as a summation of his whole work. A strange sort of summation. Strange sort of epilogue. Strange sort of laughter, inspired by our time, which is comical because it has lost all sense of humor. What more can we say? Nothing. Just read.

Publisher: New York, NY :, HarperCollins,, [2015]
Edition: First edition.
Copyright Date: ©2015
ISBN: 9780062356895
Characteristics: 115 pages
Additional Contributors: Asher, Linda


From the critics

Community Activity


Add a Comment
Mar 26, 2017

It begins with a character noticing the fashion for young women to expose their navels between cropped tops and dropped waistlines, which leads to a navel gazing metaphor throughout this novella. Kundera suggests that we ought to aspire to insignificance as the essence of existence. It’s a celebration of the trivial and unessential. Including this book.

Oct 04, 2015

The book is worth reading, if for nothing else, then for Stalin and the partridges, and the concepts that flow from that; hilarious, as well as frightening. The book could have had more story in it. It's philosophy, not a novel.

Sep 01, 2015

More of a long essay than a short novel. Witty with social issues of our present.
Like it or leave it.

Aug 22, 2015

I suspect more words will be published dissecting this short novel than the number of words in it. If you have enjoyed the author's earlier works, you will appreciate this one with his uncanny ability to provoke thinking. Like some jazz pieces that have no beginning or ending or rules to follow, it takes you on a short and enjoyable ride. If you have never read him before, you will likely wonder what the heck the book is all about.

Male readers are also likely to resonate more with this novel as the characters are all male and the conversations between them seem like banter in an ivy-league male locker room.

The author, as typical, weaves in a number of themes into a novel that mesh harmoniously like the voices in a Bach fugue. It would not be surprising that thoughts at his advanced age have wrestled with significance (or lack of it) in his life, of himself and in posterity and hence influenced the title theme. Unfortunately, in my opinion, this theme is not sufficiently developed in this short piece to justify the title.

The theme that really stands out is the evolution of his views in earlier work on the futility of communication to recognition of the contemporary world in which so much of the outward communication is a "narrative" established and accepted as reality even if it may consist of outright lies/fiction (other authors have also noted/used it, e.g., Eco in The Prague Cemetery). Repeating it or being forceful enough creates a set of believers and the narrative originators themselves start to live in it. He brings this out colorfully in his characters and very cleverly through a set of vignettes involving Soviet leaders of the past, the point/reality of which is not apparent until revealed in the "aha" moment at the very end, reinforcing this very theme of a "narrative vs reality".

The writing style is simple and delightful as expected varying from Monty Pythonesque ("... greatness of this very great poet who, out of his humble veneration of poetry, had vowed never to write a single line") to Felliniesque (scene of party guests who remain transfixed on a floating feather).

Aug 09, 2015


Tyler__J Jun 30, 2015

Kundera's latest (and perhaps last) work of fiction to be translated into English is a lighter version of his earlier works. Still, even "light" Kundera is wonderful stuff. Once again taking on subjects too serious to take seriously, he uses humor to drive home his philosophical points.

Age Suitability

Add Age Suitability

There are no age suitabilities for this title yet.


Add a Summary

There are no summaries for this title yet.


Add Notices

There are no notices for this title yet.


Add a Quote

There are no quotes for this title yet.

Explore Further

Browse by Call Number


Subject Headings


Find it at MPL

To Top