abnegation
denial, especially self-denial; relinquishment
ad infinitum
without end or limit (from the Latin for “to infinity”)
amanuensis
a person employed to write from dictation or copy a manuscript written by another
anachronistic
a person or thing that is chronologically out of place, especially one from a former age that is incongruously in the present
antithesis
opposition, contrast, the direct opposite
a priori
deductive; relating to or derived by reasoning from self-evident propositions (Latin for "from the former")
areolae
the rings of color around the human nipple
asceticism
the practice of self-denial as a method of attaining personal and spiritual discipline; austerity in behavior and dress
asymmetrical
lacking symmetry; not matching or balanced on both sides
autodidact
a self-taught person; someone who has learned a subject without the help of a teacher or educational program
avuncular
of, pertaining to, or similar to an uncle
burghers
members of the middle class; prosperous solid citizens
cashiered
dismissed, discarded, rejected
clairvoyants
persons able to sense objects or actions beyond the reach of the natural senses; individuals who are unusually perceptive
colloquia
academic meetings where specialists deliver talks and papers and answer questions about them (plural of “colloquium”)
colonnade
a series of columns set at regular intervals to support the edge of a roof
concierge
especially in France, a person who watches the door to an apartment building, and may also serve as janitor
concomitant
accompanying or coinciding, usually in a lesser or subordinate way
couchette
on a railroad train, a sleeping berth in a passenger compartment that can be folded away to form a bench for daytime seating
daguerreotype
an early type of photograph, made on a silver or silver-covered copper plate; invented in 1839, it was heavily used for only 10 to 20 years thereafter (named after the French inventor, Jacques Daguerre)
discordant
clashing, disagreeable
dissolution
the act or process of dissolving; decay, dissolving; the undoing of a bond or partnership
élan
vigorous spirit or enthusiasm, impetuous ardor
ephemeral
lasting only a short time, transitory
etymology
the history or study of the linguistic form of a word
fortuitous, fortuity
the quality or state of being a chance event, sometimes with the implication of it being a happy or lucky one
greensward
turf that is green with growing grass
haloed
surrounded with a circle of light or glow
hermaphrodite
an animal, plant, or human that possesses both male and female reproductive organs
hoary
grey or white with age; extremely old
imbued
to be permeated or influenced by something, as if by a dye
improvident
incautious, lacking foresight; neglectful of future needs
inanity
state of lacking sense; shallowness, superficiality
incorporeal
having no material body or form
inculcating
implanting by persistent and repetitive teaching; influencing (someone) to accept an idea
insipid
lacking in taste or flavor; dull, flat, uninteresting, vapid
inveigle
to entice, lure, or ensnare by artful talk or bribery
kitsch
something that appeals to popular or lowbrow and undiscriminating taste (see also Kundera’s extended discussion of the concept in sections 5-13 of Part 6, “The Grand March”)
lexicon
a book containing an alphabetical listing of words in a given language and their definitions
libertine
a freethinker in religious matters, or a person whose sexual morality and behavior are unrestrained
metaphysical
of or relating to the transcendant, abstract, or to a reality beyond what is accessible to the senses
nascent
coming or having recently come into existence
omnipresent
present in all places at all times
onerous
oppressive, burdensome, having huge weight or legal obligations
polygamous
having more than one mate at a time
precipitous
sudden, abrupt (also, extremely steep, as in having precipices)
proletariat
the working class; in Marxist theory, the group of wage earners, especially industrial workers, who do not own capital or property and must sell their manual labor to survive
propagated
to increase, to extend, to spread out across a growing area (though narrowly used in the sense of natural reproduction)
protuberant
sticking out beyond the surrounding area; projecting
querulous
perpetually complaining, fretful, peevish
quixotic
extravagantly idealistic or romantic, rashly given to chivalric actions (from Don Quixote)
refulgent
beaming, radiant, shining brightly
reprehensible
worthy of censure, deserving of blame
scabrous
having a rough surface with minute points or projects; hence, indecent or obscene
sciatica
pain associated with the sciatic nerve near the base of the spine, or broadly, any back pain between the hip and upper thigh
slivovitz
a dry, usually colorless and slightly bitter plum brandy popular in Eastern Europe
stalagmitic
resembling stalagmites, the mineral deposits that build up into vertical columns on the floor of caves as a result of the dripping of water
stultifying
dulling and inhibiting; making one look foolish or ridiculous
susurrus
a whispering or soft rustling sound
tautology
needless repetition of an idea without any additional clarity or force; in logic, an empty or vacuous statement made up of simpler statements that make it logically true whether the simpler statements are factually true or false
theodicy
a vindication of God’s goodness and justice in the face of evil
thrall
a servant slave, or state of being in complete absorption
timorous
timid, shy, doubtful, fearful
totalitarian
of or pertaining to a centralized government that does not tolerate parties of differing opinion and that exercises dictatorial control over many aspects of life; exercising control over the freedom, will, or thought of others
transcendental
supernatural, abstract; going beyond human experience but not human knowledge
transmogrified
changed in appearance or form, often to humorous or grotesque effect
valerian
a nerve drug used as a sedative or anti-spasmodic and made from the root of various plants from that go by the same name
ventral
of or relating to the belly; abdominal
vertiginously
dizzyingly, inconstantly, as if having been spun in a manner that causes vertigo