Like all Milan Kundera’s recent books, Ignorance was first written in French. Kundera refuses to write in Czech or to translate his work into his native language, claiming that it takes him a year to find the exact words and that no other words will do. Behind this seemingly professional attitude to the written word are the haunted and ambivalent feelings towards his homeland that have prevented Kundera – an exile since 1968 – from returning to live there. He has travelled to the Czech Republic, but incognito and only for the purpose of research. Ignorance is the result of that research – a poignant exploration of the homecomings of two fugitives from Communism, both with lives in the West, and both sharing Kundera’s ambivalence towards the land of their youth .
Irena is a widow, living with Gustaf, a Swede, in Paris. Gustaf, like Irena’s Czech husband, with whom she had escaped into exile, is older than she; he is a good man, whose goodness is also a weapon with which to keep real emotions at bay. Hence, for reasons she