"Unbearable Lightness of Being" is not a book to be grabbed lightly. This book chronicles the lives of four intertwined people, Sabina, Franz, Tomas, and Tereza. It is a highly metaphysical look at their lives written from all four perspectives. Though the perspective changes often, there is never a question of which character is speaking, because of their fundamental differences. At first, this shifting of perspective may seem daunting, but ends up giving you critical insights into each of their characters. For instance, as I read Tomas' account of Tereza's often frantic and depressed moods, I found myself irritated with her character. This lasted until I was confronted with her fears, written in her perspective, and then I was able to empathize.
That being said, there is no real "story" to this book. While it follows the long-term lives of the characters, there is no one "plot line" holding them all together, except the theme of revolution, oppression, and betrayal. Characters tumble through time haphazardly and stories mesh together in this account set in Prague and Geneva. The background does not play heavily into the story, but is a backdrop for the turbid and tumultuous feelings and significant life events for each character. It is well worth a read, as it is evocative and insightful. Other times, it might want to make you pull your hair and wonder why you started reading, but it will keep you hanging on right to the end.
This was required reading in college, but I loved it. While unusual, I enjoyed hearing the same story told from each of the 4 main characters' perspectives. Each time you read the story, Kundera gave you insight into why each person does what they do. It reminds you that our lives are the same way - except we only get to read the story from our own perspective.
A young woman is in love with a successful surgeon, a man torn between his love for her and his incorrigible womanizing. His mistress, a free-spirited artist, lives her life as a series of betrayalsâwhile her other lover, earnest, faithful, and good, stands to lose everything because of his noble qualities. In a world where lives are shaped by irrevocable choices and fortuitous events, and everything occurs but once, existence seems to lose its substance, its weight. Hence we feel "the unbearable lightness of being."
A major achievement from one of the world's truly great writers, Milan Kundera's magnificent novel of passion and politics, infidelity and ideas, encompasses the extremes of comedy and tragedy, illuminating all aspects of human existence.
LOVED IT! I put off reading this one for a long time thinking that it would be too deep, or too sad, or too something that wouldn't allow me to get into it. I'm so glad I finally picked it up! It would have translated well to the stage (and indeed reminds me a lot of "Closer") and I understand that it's also a movie; although I have not seen it. It's told from the perspective of the four main characters, and it's part philosophy, part romance, part introspective. The philosophy is not so heavy that it's cumbersome, it folds into the story so neatly that you find yourself wishing you'd had the benefit of the same perspective at a particular time in your own life. Whether or not you agree with the philosophy is irrelevant; it's written so well that you can appreciate it regardless. Lovely, thought-provoking, exciting, romantic, wonderful novel of the sort you could read and re-read and glean something fresh every time. I will be passing this around to friends before I re-post.
This was the second time I'd read this book. I'd forgotten that I'd
read it before. I talked to a couple of other people about it, and we
agreed that while it is very beautifully written, it does seem to be
strangely not extremely memorable. I'm not sure why. It feels somewhat
like a dream, and the details seem to slide away like those of a dream
This is mostly a story of a love triangle involving a Czech doctor,
Tomas, his wife Tereza, and one of Tomas' mistresses, Sabine. However,
it is also a book filled with Kundera's philosophical musings on the
nature and meaning of life - is every event and action an ephemeral,
one-time event, filled with "lightness" - or is the idea of "eternal
return" the one of value, where one believes that each event reoccurs
forever, set in stone, and filled with weight?
Personally, I feel that every event does only happen once, gone as
soon as acted - and that is precisely why our actions do have meaning;
they are unique. So I wasn't much for the philosophy, really.
However, I did really find the depiction of the Czech Republic in the
60s and 70s interesting, and thought it gave a fascinating insight
into what it was like to live in that time and place.
The characters are slightly abstract, but still appealing, in a way
that reminds me of the work of Anais Nin.
I would recommend the book, but don't feel that it is as significant a
work as its reputation might indicate.