Slowness, by Milan Kundera (Faber, £5.99)


In his first novel for five years - and his first written in French - the self-exiled Czech novelist confirms that he is more interested in philosophical musings than conventional narrative. The narrator/author and his wife set off for a week-end at a chateau in the French countryside and meditate on the thesis of slowness as memory, speed as forgetfulness. The narrator's thoughts glide between the present, with the almost farcical group of hotel guests staying at the chateau, and an account of a secret love affair acted out with much furtive urgency over 200 years before. Conversational, dilettantism and immensely self-satisfied, it is an exercise in intellectual trickery yet possesses charm and humour. It sure must be tough, though, being as clever as Milan Kundera.