If I am asked who my favourite writer is I say Milan Kundera without hesitation for years. I was seventeen when I met him, I read his “The Unbearable Lightness of Being”. It was a novel that was discussed a lot, later it was adapted as a film. I watched the film as well, immensely loving it. Of course every film that is adapted from a book will be incomplete, it is also impossible to adapt most of the things in a novel like the one mentioned above which is multi-layered, a book of a combination of essays and novel; it can be discussed whether it is necessary or not. The film is very successful as it adapts a lot of the basic issues in the book to the art of cinema. Juliette Binoche gained fame with this film, she made Tereza, the leading character of the book, a real human being. I would like to state that Kundera is also a cinema expert and he gave lectures at High Cinema Investigation Institute in Prag. 

Kundera is a writer who handles human beings in all their ways; the forms of existence of the being, specious called human in the place we call world, mostly ironical, tasteless forms, the struggle of living with the pressures, oddities, discrepancies of both her/his own being and the place.

Kundera is a writer who handles human beings in all their ways; the forms of existence of the being, specious called human in the place we call world, mostly ironical, tasteless forms, the struggle of living with the pressures, oddities, discrepancies of both her/his own being and the place. When you get a book of Kundera, it is guaranteed that you will love it, but you will not smile contentedly, there will be a sad, painful smile on your lips, you will close the book with a sigh because you come across with a new, unpleasant evaluation of a situation that you have not thought of before, never to forgive. Of course there will not be agreement with the writer on all subjects, there must not be. There will be new islands of thought in our minds, the writer relates the problems that his mind deals with, together with the story. The Czech writer, who was born in 1929, was prohibited in his own country for a long time. He lived in France since 1975 and we see the traces of them in his books. In a way, he tells us merits from a world that we do not know and turns to dust in our daily, meaningless rush, in the dust of now. He writes about a different world that humour, appreciating the moment, silence and slowness mean in a different way. 

In “Life Is Elsewhere”, the merits we mention make us indulge in ideas deeply by coming together with different matters as well. The novel is based on Jaromil, who has been called a “poet” since his childhood. Of course we want to state that there is an ironical approach here, as we have in all Kundera books. Jaromil has been the cause of his parents’ marriage  and his father’s estrangement from his mother, as a result he is his mother’s sanctuary. The relationship of mother and son has an important place in the novel. Jaromil cannot even wear a different underwear without his mother’s knowledge. His mother chooses his clothes, as it was when he was a child. So, the mother besieges the whole life. Kundera indicates that poets come from homes that are ruled by women, that they try to be men. Jaromil takes after his mother very much, his face can be described as beautiful rather than handsome, he looks for lines of manhood in the mirror, harsh lines, self-confident expressions. Some poets are not ruled by their own mothers, the person could be their grandmothers or aunts. Kundera explains with examples: “Yesenin and Mayakovsky’s sisters, Blok’s aunts, Hölderlin and Lermontov’s grandmother, Pushkin’s nurse and especially mothers, poets’ mothers that cover the father’s shadow. Lady Wilde used to dress her son Oscar like a girl.” They try to escape from these mothers to become men, start their own lives, but this is difficult. Kundera says. “The time must come to get away from the arms of the poet’s mother and escape.” When Rimbaud was thirteen, he tried to get away from these arms for the first time, he was also writing his poems as he was going on to escape. But “he was escaping with a strap graven on his neck.” Poets’ mothers accept their escape, conquer as much as they want with their poems, because they are at peace with the knowledge that the poets are their slaves. When they escort to their funerals, they have this peace in them, escape is over, even though it is metaphorical. 

As we plunge into the relationship of mother and son, we are reminded of D.H.Lawrence’s “Sons And Lovers”. As we see in “Life Is Elsewhere”, too, the mother wants to be a part of the privacy the son has with a woman in a way. Because she exists, another woman must always have the second importance. Lawrence’s novel character tries again and again to get rid of his mother’s shadow. The mother, who is not happy with her husband, finds salvation in her relationship with her son, but this affects the son in a negative way, in his relations with the opposite sex. Arundhati Roy writes that Indian mothers are in love with their sons in “The God of Small Things”. That’s why Amu’s brother, who is one of the main female characters of the book, is like a spoiled child, he is not successful in anything he does. His marriage is a failure as well. Arundhati Roy writes for Mary Roy, whom she dedicated her book to, “who loved me enough to let me go.” A mother must not cut the wings of her child, let her/him actualise herself/himself, let her child go beyond her. Real sacrifice is this maybe. As there are very few people who can do this, Kundera indicates that people who do not know their parents can be really free. Jim Morrison also left his family absolutely and focused on writing lyrics and poems. 

We have mentioned sons only, what about daughters? Are they comfortable? Women always want to have daughters, but they love their sons. In “The Unbearable Lightness of Being”, Tereza tries to get rid of her mother so much. Her mother sees her as the person who has ruined her life, her beauty, she did not want to bear her. She struggles to make her daughter’s life unbearable. In “The God of Small Things” Ammu has no importance for her family, either, she can be discarded easily. Her mother never thinks of protecting her daughter who has been exposed to violence with her by her husband, there is only her son for her. He has rescued her from her husband, so her whole life is her son. This lack of interest is a way of gaining power for daughters, so they can stand more firmly. We see Ammu as a powerful character, too, but everything is difficult in countries where women are seen as second-class people, especially if the caste system, buried deep in the subconscious, one of the most extreme examples of discrimination, is added to it, living is nearly impossible for a woman.

It was written “Life Is Elsewhere” on the wall of Sorbonne, in the magical surroundings of 1968. Knowing this, Percy Bysshe Shelley went to Ireland with hundreds of statements and leaflets in his twenties, there was a riot. But he could not come together with the people who he wanted to meet and be with. “Life is always where he is not.” says the writer. Rimbaud could not join The Paris Commune,either. The writer adds:

“But in 1968, thousands of Rimbauds had their own barricades behind which they were standing and refused all kinds of agreement.”

We all know what the result was, the writing “dream is reality” has turned upside down, “that reality… was dream”, as Kundera says. Thinking that life is not at the place or time we are in, envying others’ lives can be a way of escape as well. Bringing life to where we are is in our hands actually. We must struggle with ourselves for it, because we are the ones who can make life however we want it to be. Complaining as we look out of the life window is of no use, it only prevents our seeing beauties in our hands, only we can do something for ourselves. Shall we give up the notion “Be realistic, demand the impossible”? Never!

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