If someone were to write Jan’s biography, he might sum up the period I am talking about by saying something like this: His affair with Edwige marked a new stage in the life of the forty-five-year-old Jan. Renouncing at last his desultory and empty way of life, he decided to leave the town in the west of Europe and devote himself with renewed energy to important work in the United States, with which he then attained, etc., etc.

But how would Jan’s imaginary biographer explain to me why Jan’s favorite book just then was the novel of antiquity Daphnis and Chloe? The love of two young people, nearly children still, who know nothing about physical love. The bleating of a ram mingles with the sound of the sea, and a sheep grazes in the shade of an olive tree. The two young people lie naked side by side, filled with an immense, vague desire. They embrace, press against each other, are closely entwined. They stay this way for a long, long time, not knowing what more to do. They think that this embrace is the beginning and end of love’s pleasures. They are aroused, their hearts are pounding, but they do not know what it is to make love.

Yes, it is this passage that fascinates Jan.

Milan Kundera, The Book of Laughter and Forgetting, translated by Aaron Asher