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Milan Kundera's sixth novel springs from a casual gesture of a woman to her swimming instructor, a gesture that cre-ates a character in the mind of a writer named Kundera. Like Flaubert's Emma or Tolstoy's Anna, Kundera's Agnes becomes an object of fascination, of indefinable longing. From that character springs a novel, a gesture of the imagination that both embodies and articulates Milan Kundera's supreme mastery of the novel and its purpose: to explore thoroughly the great themes of existence.