The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera

Posted February 4, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Literary Fiction / 0 Comments

The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan KunderaTitle: The Unbearable Lightness of Being (Goodreads)
Author: Milan Kundera
Translator: Michael Henry Heim
Published: Faber & Faber, 1984
Pages: 314
Genres: Literary Fiction
My Copy: Personal Copy

Buy: AmazonBook Depository (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

The Unbearable Lightness of Being is an existential novel about two men, two women, a dog and their lives. The book takes place in Prague in the 1960s and 1970s and explores the artistic/intellectual life of Czechoslovakian society during this Communist period. Tomáš is a womanising surgeon and intellectual, his wife Tereza is a photographer struggling with all her husband’s infidelities. Sabina a free spirited artist and Tomáš’s mistress and Franz is a professor and also a lover or Sabina. Then there is Karenin, the dog with an extreme disliking to change.

I know the synopsis doesn’t really do much to make this novel interesting but that’s just the basics of it. Really, this is a novel challenging Nietzsche’s concept of eternal recurrence. A concept which hypothesizes that the universe has been recurring, and will continue to recur. This book explores the idea that people only have one life to live and what occurs will only occur once and never again. The book also explores love and sex and whether the two are connected; for Tomáš they are not but for Tereza they are.

There is a lot more philosophical aspects to understand but as I don’t have much knowledge in those areas lets focus on the novel. This was surprisingly easy to read and lyrical and almost dreamlike feel to it but then there is a lot of emotional devastation as well. Not just with Tomáš’s actions but with the communist control over everyone.

From the very start you while see the gorgeous poetic prose within Milan Kundera’s writing and the unique plot concept will initially drive this book for the reader. Then you will continue reading it for the devastating beauty of love, sex, jealously, politics and existence. Once you finish, you might reflect on the philosophical and existential nature of this book. In the end it’s just one of those books that sounds a little weird and unappealing but is really worth reading.

0 responses to “The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera

  1. Lectus Read

    This book is a classic that I feel attracted to read because of the title but haven’t done so because of the synopsis. As you say, it doesn’t offer much and just from this description it doesn’t sound like my type of book.

  2. Rob

    The actual translation of the Czech word “nesnesitelna” is “insufferable” not “unbearable”. Typically, Czech literature like this, drowns under the weight of its context: a culture of misogyny, homophobia, bigotry, insecurity, endemic corruption, the Communist social contract that provided a level of economic comfort we can hardly imagine, and a thorough contempt for the “other”. Kundera, Havel, and all the other cosseted intellectuals who fled to the countryside to escape the “horrors” of Czech Communism can’t imagine the truly insufferable horrors meted out to their contemporaries in Western client states around the world during these times. Kundera’s unbearable greatness is his ability to turn insufferable dross into dollars.

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