The Unbearable Lightness of Being: A Novel Paperback – Deckle Edge, Oct 27 2009
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"Brilliant . . . A work of high modernist playfulness and deep pathos."-- Janet Malcolm, "New York Review of Books""Kundera has raised the novel of ideas to a new level of dreamlike lyricism and emotional intensity." -- Jim Miller, "Newsweek""Kundera is a virtuoso . . . A work of the boldest mastery, originality, and richness."-- Elizabeth Hardwick, "Vanity Fair"
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.See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
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.Read more ›
The lightness of being is at the focal point of this novel. We are first presented with a brief essay-like section on whether life is a light or a heavy experience, and if it differs for others. He uses historical figures as evidence as to the weight of life, some, like Parmenides, consider life to be a light burden, as 'lightness' is positive and so is being alive, and Nietzsche appears to agree, though for very different reasons. Throughout the novel, Kundera takes over the narration to discuss, contrast and compare the actions of the characters as regards to the philosophy of great men, trying to determine whether life is in fact light or heavy. The conclusion he seems to come to is that it is up to the person themselves to decide, and after that, to decide which out of light or heavy is the negative aspect.
In terms of story, most of the activity centres around Tomas and Tereze, who met through a bizarre sequence of activities. In another show of polarity, Tereze considers these amazing coincidences proof that they should be together forever, whereas as Tomas thinks it means that their relationship will be as fleeting and ephemeral as the chance of them ever meeting. We also get to see on of Tomas' (many) mistresses, Sabine, although the details of her life are presented more to understand Tomas.
About halfway through the novel, we are taken on an excursion into the way life was in Czechoslovakia, with the threat of the Russians and communism, and the way people were deluded.Read more ›
The book begins with Kundera explaining Nietzsche's idea of the eternal return (and Kundera is incredibly well read, citing not just philosophy but religion and mythology as well): the only way that anything can have any meaning is if it can be repeated. Since this life cannot be repeated, the question becomes whether or not this life can have any meaning? Kundera does not give an answer to that question, choosing to instead flesh out his characters by not only giving philosophical weight - no pun intended - to the narrative, but by giving psychological insights on their motives and actions.
It is hard to say what the real narrative of the book is. Is it the meaninglessness with which Tomas engages in his endless womanizing? Is it the utter falsehood that Tomas tries to make real in claiming that sex has nothing to do with love? Despite his telling his wife that his womanizing has no effect on his love for her, it could easily be argued that what makes his promiscuity so depthless is the fact that he has no love for anyone. In the end, we see that the body and the soul are intimately connected, not divorced from one another. The interweaving of these multiple narratives is part of what makes the book so insightful.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
In my humble opinion, M. Kundera is superb essayist. If your expectations are set by his essays, then, I am afraid, you won't be thrilled by his novels, but you will enjoy them... Read morePublished 17 months ago by CC
A well-written, beautiful book. Kundera brings you into his world of complicated love, the meaning of life and how the decisions we make affect those around us.Published on June 19 2014 by fionah
This is the story of Tomaz and Tereza as it unfolds in the modern state of Czechoslovakia over three generations. Read morePublished on Jan. 20 2014 by Ian Gordon Malcomson
This book is a heavy read. It is written really well, but Kundera's style is very different than most authors. Read morePublished on Aug. 26 2004
Anyone who has read any Kundera knows what to expect - narrative, history, and philosophical musings mixed into an "experimental" novel. Read morePublished on July 12 2004 by Zafiro Blue
Let there be a space forever reserved for this book in that most exclusive of literary categories - the novel of ideas. Read morePublished on May 13 2004 by Matthew Krichman
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. Read morePublished on May 2 2004
I really enjoyed reading THE UNBEARABLE LIGHTNESS OF BEING, though it wasn't anything like I thought it would be. Read morePublished on April 11 2004 by Totally Anonymous