Study Guide

The Boat Boy in The Book of Laughter and Forgetting

By Milan Kundera

The Boat Boy

This is the sexually precocious boy of 12 who waits to ferry Tamina to the island of children. He's definitely an odd duck, and one that defies strict decoding. It's clear that he's meant to represent Charon, the mythological ferryman of the dead. But we're pretty sure that Charon never had a tape recorder or an overactive pelvis.

He also laughs while ordering Tamina around—and we all know what Kundera says about laughter. (But seriously, if you don't, check out "Part III.") Tamina is right to be uncomfortable about this character; he's something supernatural, perhaps an agent of divine retribution (for her past happiness? for her inability to live in the present?). Either way, he means nothing good for Tamina.