The self-deprecation and political cynicism of the Czech writers of Kundera's middle-aged generation appear as fine ironies in this novel about a young poet. It is a remarkable study of an artist dominated by his mother and his narcissism. Jaromil was the exclusive property of his mother from the time of his conception (she wanted to name him Apollo, meaning fatherless) to his early death -- the final reconciliation to his mother's embrace. The discovery that words brought magic approbation from Maman and her friends made Jaromil a poet; the desire to achieve manhood made him a Party poet, zealously censoring his betters and relishing the poetry evening at the police academy. How his mother engulfed his Communism and his love affairs could trove been mere if very funny farce, but Kundera also mobilizes a strain of real tenderness, even for Maman, which was not found in the short stories of Laughable Loves (appearing simultaneously). The dramatization of self-dramatization, the light but brutal explicitness about the egoism of love and mother-love, make this a work of instruction in the good, old sense. Winner of a 1973 Medicis Literary Award.