AbstractMilan Kundera structures his novels through the thematic development of key terms. In The Book of Laughter and Forgetting, Kundera explores the meaning of litost, an untranslatable Czech word that means “a state of torment created by the sudden sight of one’s own misery.” Litost relates to Kundera’s concept of the idyll (which refers to a utopia of innocence); when man learns of his misery, he loses this faith in his idyll and suffers from litost. This relationship serves as a framework with which to explore the major themes from Kundera’s three major works (The Joke, The Book of Laughter and Forgetting, and The Unbearable Lightness of Being), including kitsch, beauty, joking, laughter, forgetting, and the unbearable lightness of being. When viewed through the litost-idyll framework, Kundera’s novels divide existence into two halves: meaning and meaninglessness. On the border of this dichotomy, litost sufferers may find relief in an idyll of experience, in which a small group lives apart from society in absolute identity with one another.