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The Unbearable Lightness Of Being: A Novel Paperback – Oct 8 2009

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Paperback, Oct 8 2009
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CDN$ 10.63 CDN$ 12.60 First Novel Award - 6 Canadian Novels Make the Shortlist

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; Deluxe edition (Oct. 8 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061148520
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061148521
  • Product Dimensions: 14 x 2 x 21 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 249 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (145 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #179,563 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


"Brilliant . . . A work of high modernist playfulness and deep pathos." (This text refers to the Paperback edition) --Janet Malcolm, New York Review of Books

"Kundera has raised the novel of ideas to a new level of dreamlike lyricism and emotional intensity." (This text refers to the Paperback edition) --Jim Miller, Newsweek

"Kundera is a virtuoso . . . A work of the boldest mastery, originality, and richness." (This text refers to the Paperback edition) --Elizabeth Hardwick, Vanity Fair

Jonathan Oliver employs a husky-voiced tone that proves the right match for this darkish story, one that requires of listeners a dollop of patience. Set first in Czechoslovakia, then in Switzerland, Kundera's story tells the sometimes laborious story of a womanizing Czech surgeon forced to flee the Russian invasion and take on menial roles, giving his passion for the flesh a slighly different perspective, as he is no longer a doctor but just a window-washer. His relationship with this current female-of-choice, the interesting and puzzling Tereza, is at the center of the novel. Oliver is good, very good, pausing with great effect, having just the right amount of low-key drama and contemplative musing in his narration. He's a good fit for a book that not everyone will like, but those who stay the course will generally be pleased they did. (This text refers to the Audio Cassette edition) --T.H.(c), AudioFile, Portland, Maine

From the Back Cover

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 betrayals—while 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.

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First Sentence
The idea of eternal return is a mysterious one, and Nietzsche has often perplexed other philosophers with it: to think that everything recurs as we once experienced it, and that the recurrence itself recurs ad infinitum! Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars

Most helpful customer reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By elfdart on Aug. 2 2008
Format: Paperback
i really enjoyed this book, it's one of those ones you have to think about. the story follows two couples, tomas and tereza and sabina and franz. these people are used to embody certain ideals and characteristics, and i interpreted their actions more as metaphor rather than just an act in itself.

i suppose one of the major themes in the book is expressed in the title, this idea of weight in association with how we interact with the world, and whether or not it is a good or bad thing to have. i understood the weight to be our ties to the world, our responsibilities. like a sac we carry. the question is -is it better to have the sac full of stuff you may need or want with you or is it better to be unburdened? what i found helpful was that for the perspectives presented, the opposite perspective is presented to contrast, neither one being more right than the other.

each of the four main characters had some sort of struggle they were attempting to overcome (which i loved reading about. there is nothing more enlightening and empowering than to watch someone overcome what discontents them). all of the struggles have to do with how the characters interact with those they know, which i saw to be a preference for either weight or lightness.

this is one of those books you could (and should) spend hours thinking about.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By "meltingyellow" on Dec 2 2001
Format: Paperback
I had no idea what I was getting into when I bought this book. But it turned out that I enjoyed it, and although it was more tedious to read towards the end, I would recommend it to anyone who can speed read.
To me this book was written as one incredibly long train of thought. The train itself breaks off into other smaller trains of thought, but it always goes back to the principle story: that of Tomas and Tereza. While Kundera may turn off the reader who doesn't enjoy straight story-telling, he does tell a story here. It's not just a book of random musings and incoherent philosophizing.
That said, the stories of "Unbearable.."'s characters are simple enough. Tomas is a philanderer, torn between his lifestyle and his love for Tereza, who kind of fell into his life by chance. Tereza is his wife, who is tortured by his infidelity but cannot leave him. Other more minor characters include Sabina, a mistress of Tomas, and Franz, another married lover of Sabina.
These four characters are Kundera's chosen examples of the human experience. He reveals their inner desires and motives, and otherwise tells their psychological stories along with their real-life stories. They each have "issues", as does everyone in this world. But it's interesting how their personal philosophies, having been shaped by both their human experience and their intrinsic individuality, are so different from each other's. This in return shapes the experiences they have with each other. Tereza and Tomas lived for so long together, yet they never really thought alike. And because of this, they lived totally separate lives.
That, in full, is my take on the book.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By K J Foehr on Dec 28 2003
Format: Paperback
Milan Kundera is an intellectual author of several books of fiction and poetry, plays, and essays. He is even considered by some to be a philosopher. So if you are looking for light reading or erotic literature, then look elsewhere. Even though it is a fairly easy read and it does have a lot of sex, you will be disappointed with this novel. If, however, you are a thinker who loves ideas, a student of philosophy, or a fan of philosophical fiction, then this "book of ideas" is a must read.
In this book "lightness" is living superficially, uncommitted, and selfishly without purpose. Weight or "heaviness" is living committed to and loving a spouse, burdened with adherence to and sacrifice for principles that are greater than oneself. In this novel Kundera tells a story of how living a life of lightness is inevitably unbearable, untenable, and that in order to find meaning and peace and happiness in this life, we must take on the weight of commitment and purpose outside ourselves.
The philosophy of the novel is essentially existential, and the reader will find many of its concepts operating in the lives of the novel's characters: Life is a series of unique, chance events that the individual experiences in isolation (even though surrounded by people, no one can truly understand the experience of another in the same way); that the universe is indifferent; and that human existence is unexplainable and essentially meaningless; the importance of freedom of choice and responsibility for the consequences of one's actions. But there is a lot more in this novel than just these few concepts - much, much more.
I say this novel is flawed because it seems to me to cry out for more rewriting and editing. As it is I call it "near great".
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 2 2004
Format: Paperback
I saw the movie which was made from this novel, many, many years ago, and while I absolutely loved it, I thought it was about an hour too long. Hence, my hesitation with tackling the novel. But a curious thing happend, for what I found was that the book actually "seemed" shorter. Go figure. I love the story, whether it is the film version or the written word, and Kundera's telling of it is remarkable. That said, I would recommende the book more so than the movie. Perhaps my reason for so highly praising the novel is that I was able to put it down, whereas with the movie, I was not (I saw it in an "arts" theatre many years ago.) My point is this--it's a very good read and you should check it out.
Also recommended: McCrae's BARK OF THE DOGWOOD
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