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In The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Milan Kundera tells the story of a young woman in love with a man torn between his love for her and his incorrigible womanizing and one of his mistresses and her humbly faithful lover. This magnificent novel juxtaposes geographically distant places, brilliant and playful reflections, and a variety of styles to take its place as perhaps In The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Milan Kundera tells the story of a young woman in love with a man torn between his love for her and his incorrigible womanizing and one of his mistresses and her humbly faithful lover. This magnificent novel juxtaposes geographically distant places, brilliant and playful reflections, and a variety of styles to take its place as perhaps the major achievement of one of the world’s truly great writers.


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In The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Milan Kundera tells the story of a young woman in love with a man torn between his love for her and his incorrigible womanizing and one of his mistresses and her humbly faithful lover. This magnificent novel juxtaposes geographically distant places, brilliant and playful reflections, and a variety of styles to take its place as perhaps In The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Milan Kundera tells the story of a young woman in love with a man torn between his love for her and his incorrigible womanizing and one of his mistresses and her humbly faithful lover. This magnificent novel juxtaposes geographically distant places, brilliant and playful reflections, and a variety of styles to take its place as perhaps the major achievement of one of the world’s truly great writers.

30 review for A lét elviselhetetlen könnyűsége

  1. 5 out of 5

    Ben

    I was hesitant to start this, and figured for awhile that it would be one of those books that maybe I’d get around to or maybe I wouldn’t. It just didn’t seem like something I’d enjoy – it seemed too soft, or too postmodern, or too feel-good, or too based in hedonism, or too surface oriented. What caused me to give it a shot was the simple fact that I’ll be traveling to Prague in a few weeks, and since the book's setting takes place there, I figured it may put me in the mood for the trip. I figu I was hesitant to start this, and figured for awhile that it would be one of those books that maybe I’d get around to or maybe I wouldn’t. It just didn’t seem like something I’d enjoy – it seemed too soft, or too postmodern, or too feel-good, or too based in hedonism, or too surface oriented. What caused me to give it a shot was the simple fact that I’ll be traveling to Prague in a few weeks, and since the book's setting takes place there, I figured it may put me in the mood for the trip. I figured it was “now or never” in regards to reading it. And yet, even with that being the case, I hesitated a bit. That is, until the mere mentioning it received an almost overzealously positive response from two close friends (whose opinions I hold in high regard). Their response was so enthusiastic that I was pushed over the edge; shoved into thinking that the novel’s chances of being lame had been lessened, and that it would be worth the trial. And I’m glad I decided to give this book a shot. Damn glad. The novel traces the lives of two couples during the Soviet occupation of Prague, during the late 1960’s. The novel deep-heartedly charts their struggles against communism, their pasts, their lovers, and themselves. Kundera observes the stuff that goes on internally amongst the characters; he intellectualizes it, and tells you about it. He’s quite philosophical, and you feel like the narrator is talking to you, offering very insightful observations about the characters and life in general. This is one reason why reading is often more valuable than watching TV or a movie: when reading a good book you get direct psychological explanations, and you get to go inside the heads of characters. Taken as a whole, I found this novel to be profound, but in unusual ways. It’s not a direct novel, but rather one that represents, and lets one feel, disconnections and various glimpses of perceptions. And it wasn’t a smooth novel, either. It even felt choppy on occasion. But the chapters are short, which fits its feel, and also gives you time to think about the penetrating thoughts that Kundera puts across. Kundera strikes me as a craftsman of sorts. He switches timelines deftly and effectively – even when I thought he was crazy to do so; when I thought he gave up the climax of the novel towards its middle, he proved me dead wrong. He proved to me that he knew exactly what he was doing because he’s a master of the craft. This novel is not full of sweeping, pounding paragraphs of poignant, soul-hitting, philosophical depth, but rather offers up constant glimpses; nuggets of insightful observations on almost every page, that when added up together, reveal an impressive, heartfelt, and real work. I love the way this novel portrays love. It recognizes and represents its beauty while at the same time showing how psychological and manipulatable it can be. The loves in this novel are accurate ones, not at all cheapened by gimmicky slogans or conventional lines. "The dance seemed to him a declaration that her devotion, her ardent desire to satisfy his every whim, was not necessarily bound to his person, that if she hadn't met Tomas, she would have been ready to respond to the call of any other man she might have met instead." Kundera brilliantly portrays how simple things like our past, our country, images, family – even metaphors, can affect our psyche and major life decisions. "Tomas did not realize at the time that metaphors are dangerous. Metaphors are not to be trifled with. A single metaphor can give birth to love." Its fragility and delicacy: "What would happen if Tomas were to receive such a picture? Would he throw her out? Perhaps not. Probably not. But the fragile edifice of their love would certainly come tumbling down. For that edifice rested on the single column of her fidelity, and loves are like empires: when the idea they are founded on crumbles, they, too, fade away." "Perhaps if they had stayed together longer, Sabina and Franz would have begun to understand the words they used. Gradually, timorously, their vocabularies would have come together, like bashful lovers, and the music of one would have begun to intersect with the music of the other. But it was too late now." Sometimes even one sentence can say a lot: "Looking out over the courtyard at the dirty walls, he realized he had no idea whether it was hysteria or love." "While people are fairly young and the musical composition of their lives is still in its opening bars, they can go about writing it together and exchange motifs (the way Tomas and Sabina exchanged the motif of the bowler hat), but if they meet when they are older, like Franz and Sabina, their musical compositions are more or less complete, and every motif, every object, every word means something different to each of them." And it’s worth reiterating that the philosophical ideas in this novel are very thought provoking: "Tomas thought: Attaching love to sex is one of the most bizarre ideas the Creator ever had." The importance of our decisions. The lack of importance of our decisions. The unavoidable importance of life. The unavoidable lack of importance of life. That's how this novel feels. If I'm to give a book five stars, it needs to affect me in some profound ways -- it needs to change me, at least a little. This novel has affected my view of life; how I see the world. Specifically, it’s helped me better understand beauty. I have trouble elaborating on that because beauty is such an abstract concept; you know it when you see it, or rather— you know it when you feel it. Beauty has some melancholy; it is appreciative -- special but fleeting -- and never fully absorbed as its full whole. Maybe that's a major aspect of beauty -- knowing it is beyond your grasp. Beyond you. Life is ultimately a crapshoot. You don't know what's going to happen. You might as well hang on to something. And that something might as well be love -- whether it be plutonic, romantic, or, if you’re lucky, both. And if that's what you're going to hang on to (and you are), then you might as well understand its simplicity and its complexity, and its beauty -- you might as well understand and appreciate as much of it as you can. It only makes sense that you do. This novel can help you do that.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Lyn

    This review is sung by Freddy Mercury to the tune of Bohemian Rhapsody. Is this a fiction? Is this just fantasy? Not just a narrative Of Czech infidelity. Reader four eyes Look onto the page and read I'm just a Prague boy, I’ve sex with empathy Because I'm easy come, easy go A little high, little low Any Soviet era Czech knows, unbearable lightness of being Good Reads, just read a book Put a bookmark on the page Played my audio now it’s read Good Reads, the book had just begun But now I've read all Milan had t This review is sung by Freddy Mercury to the tune of Bohemian Rhapsody. Is this a fiction? Is this just fantasy? Not just a narrative Of Czech infidelity. Reader four eyes Look onto the page and read I'm just a Prague boy, I’ve sex with empathy Because I'm easy come, easy go A little high, little low Any Soviet era Czech knows, unbearable lightness of being Good Reads, just read a book Put a bookmark on the page Played my audio now it’s read Good Reads, the book had just begun But now I've read all Milan had to say Good Reads, ooo Didn't mean to make you sigh If I'm not back again this time tomorrow Carry on, carry on, unbearable lightness of being Too late, this book is done A short book no need to break the spine Body’s just egalitarian Good read everybody – I’ll say so Gotta leave you all behind and face the truth Good Reads, ooo (any Soviet era Czech knows) I don't want the book to end I sometimes wish I'd never started to read at all I read a little dialogue from of a man Tomas, Tomas will you make love to Teresa? Thunderbolt and lightning very nearly enticing me Repetition! Repetition! Repetition! Repetition! Repetition Kundera– Metaphor! But I'm just a Prague boy and many women love me He's just a Prague boy from a Czech family Flair is his prose from this virtuosity Easy come easy go will you let me go Bohemia! No we will not let you go - let him go Bohemia! We will not let you go - let him go Bohemia! We will not let you go let me go Will not let you go let me go (never) Never let you go let me go Never let me go ooo No, no, no, no, no, no, no Oh Milan Kundera, Milan Kundera says its so Premier Brezhnev has a gulag put aside for me For me For me [Brian May melts our faces with a blistering guitar solo while Wayne and Garth head bang in a Pacer] Soviet tanks can occupy and eat our pie Naked women can sing and leave me to die Oh Milan, Kant German sex Milan Just gotta go Swiss just gotta get right outta here Ooh yeah, ooh yeah Unbearable lightness Anyone can read Unbearable lightness unbearable lightness of being Any Soviet era Czech knows

  3. 5 out of 5

    J

    There is probably one novel that is the most responsible for the direction of my post-graduation European backpacking trip ten years ago which landed me in Prague for two solid weeks. Shortly before my friend Chad and I departed, he mailed me a letter and directed me to get my hands on a copy of Milan Kundera’s The Unbearable Lightness of Being. Just read it, he wrote. Whatever else you do, just read this book. It is about everything in the world. Being already a Kafka fan of some long-standing, There is probably one novel that is the most responsible for the direction of my post-graduation European backpacking trip ten years ago which landed me in Prague for two solid weeks. Shortly before my friend Chad and I departed, he mailed me a letter and directed me to get my hands on a copy of Milan Kundera’s The Unbearable Lightness of Being. Just read it, he wrote. Whatever else you do, just read this book. It is about everything in the world. Being already a Kafka fan of some long-standing, I was quite open to another absurdly minded Czech telling the story of his city and by extension the rest of the world. The title itself was familiar, though not the author’s name, and I rather innocently mistook Kundera for a woman at first glance at the cover. Suffice to say, Kundera had me at the very first paragraph. Has any other modern novel had such a wonderfully philosophical opening than this one? 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! What does this mad myth signify? In two sentences, the very first two, Kundera not only manages to break several writing rules of style (an exclamation mark, followed by a direct address to the reader being the most obvious), but he also succinctly sums up one of the most challenging philosophical concepts, yet is wise enough to address it on its own terms: as a “mad myth.” From the earliest possible chance, the author is telling us that he is indeed an intellectual, that he writes energetically, playfully, and that serious Ideas with the full timbre basso profundo tolling out that capital “I” are the very pith and marrow of novels and are not to be stuffed, labeled, and set up high on a shelf reserved for great thoughts too refined and delicate to mingle among the common rabble of characters and dialogue and action. Needless to say, this is a heady mix, the kind of thing to go straight to a recent college graduate with literature and philosophy on the brain. And we haven’t even touched on the sex yet. Kundera’s books are rife with sex, sex is the other engine driving this dually powered writer, sex both passionate and routine, sex filled up with deep emotional meaning and sex stripped down to its tangible physicality, sex as recurring motif in one’s life illuminating greater insights into one’s personality and sex as secret door into the aesthetics of our time. To write, as some have, that the book is primarily about erotic encounters is as much as to say that Beethoven was a guy who played piano. Instead it is a book about tyranny, the large and the small, the ones we endure and the ones we resist, the ones we submit to for love and the ones that always rankle silently. The tyranny of kitsch, as understood by the novel, kitsch to mean a subjective, sentimental folding screen that hides away the sight of death. The questions that the book seeks to explore circle around the ideas of polar opposites, truth and lies, love and hate (or indifference), freedom and slavery, heaviness and lightness. The Kundera style is a very delightful bit and piecework manner. We focus on one character, that character’s perceptions, that character’s perspectives, in little miniatures, some essay-like, that elaborate on the character’s psychology or history. Then we shift to another character and learn new things about that person, sometimes touching on the same pieces we’ve seen already. It’s like Rashomon but more expansive, drawing circles around lives and eras instead of merely one night’s events. Part of what Kundera does is move the story along through first one person, then go back in time and retell only some of that story focused on a second person and demonstrate how our best attempts at comprehending each other remains woefully inadequate. There will always be layers fathoms below our drilling. Yet at the same time, Kundera moves the story forward, stops, switches character again and in this third instance either goes back to person number one or switches to person number three and repeats the process, and repeats again. What emerges is rather like conflicting court testimony, multiple moving parts simultaneously illuminating their own motivations and obscuring others’. If there is a weakness to all of this it is that Kundera’s novels sometimes develop the quality of theoretical exercises between characters embodying certain philosophical conceits. While the author may touch the mind and the libido, the heart often remains chilly. There is a sense of artificiality when you stare too longly at the book’s constructs, as though the author were merely embodying an essay with puppets for illustrative purposes. Though what precisely does lie behind our disagreements and disconnections from others than differing mental states? We fall out of love with someone not because of the size of her bottom or his new haircut, but because our lives shift in differing directions and we can no longer think in the same cohesive manner with the other person. Our ideas become different. What are our wants but our ideas given concrete form and targets? “Metaphors are dangerous,” the author writes more than once throughout the novel. “Metaphors are not be trifled with. A single metaphor can give birth to love.” So thinks the novel’s “hero” Tomas, the epic womanizer, as he reflects on how he came to love Tereza who is soon his wife. This couple, a marriage dancing around secrets and each of the partner’s inability to communicate finally the truth about who they are to their spouse, is used for comparison and contrast with Franz, a middle aged married professor in Switzerland who is in love with one of Tomas’ exiled Czech mistresses, the artist Sabine. Their stories are told against the backdrop of the Russian invasion and subjugation of Czechoslovakia during the Cold War. Kundera twines their two stories together examining how love can either lift us up to heights of ecstasy or weigh us down with its solidity and unchangeable reality — then poses the surprising question: which condition should we view as the negative in binary opposition? Is it the uncentered lack of gravity that makes love real and powerful or does that quality make us too airy and flighty, unserious when we most need it? Or rather can it be love’s grounding quality that allows us to feel with stability the other’s existence — or does that weight merely pin us down, smother us with its heft? Can it be both? Can it be that when couples part it is because what is lighter than a breeze for one has become a leaden drag on the other? This is push and pull of ideas and language and sentiments is beautifully illustrated in the novel’s third part, titled “Words Misunderstood,” in which Kundera examines how Sabina and Franz’s inability to understand the terms the other uses leads to their separation. This is done through a sort of anecdotal dictionary that allows each character to demonstrate their grasp of an idea. The shortest bluntly captures some of the magic of this portion: CEMETERY Cemeteries in Bohemia are like gardens. The graves are covered with grass and colorful flowers. Modest tombstones are lost in the greenery. When the sun goes down, the cemetery sparkles with tiny candles. It looks as though the dead are dancing at a children’s ball. Yes, a children’s ball, because the dead are as innocent as children. No matter how brutal life becomes, peace always reigns in the cemetery. Even in wartime, in Hitler’s time, in Stalin’s time, through all occupations. When she felt low, [Sabina] would get into the car, leave Prague far behind, and walk through one or another of the country cemeteries she loved so well. Against a backdrop of blue hills, they were as beautiful as a lullaby. For Franz a cemetery was an ugly dump of stones and bones. And this too is part of the novel’s recurring genius. At every stage, there is an elegiac note to happiness as though all these dances have been gone through before, as though all love affairs, even should Nietzsche be wrong, carry within them the seeds of their own endings. Franz and Sabina’s inability to even understand each other on very basic levels dooms their romance from the beginning. Their tragedy is commonplace and follows a pattern as though ritualized. Tereza and Tomas’ marriage we see is held together only by each other’s willingness to commit to it and to some third greater thing than either of themselves, though what that third thing is neither of them understand. For each of them separately, it is a kind of death to be together and a kind of death to be apart, and together their momentary happinesses are a kind of staving off of this specter. Kundera nicely ends The Unbearable Lightness of Being, foreshadowing what happens later after the closing scenes, which gives the novel a sadly sweet tone instead of merely tragic. Instead of simply ending with death, as a kind of negation, the book closes with sleep, part of the circling motif, the cycle we go through, our lives one passing hoop. After my initial reading of the novel, I found myself rereading it immediately, going through all of it again, underlining passages, committing certain ones to memory. Over the years, I have returned again and again to this novel, more than many others, much more than Kundera’s other novels despite my having read them repeatedly as well. To return to Kundera’s world is like reliving your best relationships (and maybe your worst ones as well), but reliving them as though you had been smarter, wiser, deeper at the time than you really were. It is a kind of exorcism and a kind of nostalgia and it is a beautiful example of writing that matters, beyond all else, writing that matters.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Megha

    Kundera is an unconventional writer, to say the least. If you are looking for fully fleshed characters or a smooth plot, The Unbearable Lightness of Being is not for you. Kundera merely uses plot and characters as tools or examples to explain his philosophy about life, and that is what this novel is all about. He will provide a glimpse of his characters' lives, hit the pause button and then go on to explain all about what just happened, the philosophy and psychology which drives the lives of his Kundera is an unconventional writer, to say the least. If you are looking for fully fleshed characters or a smooth plot, The Unbearable Lightness of Being is not for you. Kundera merely uses plot and characters as tools or examples to explain his philosophy about life, and that is what this novel is all about. He will provide a glimpse of his characters' lives, hit the pause button and then go on to explain all about what just happened, the philosophy and psychology which drives the lives of his characters and often real lives as well. In keeping with this format, the novel is fragmentary in structure. It is easy to see how a reader can get annoyed at the author's getting lost in his philosophical musings so very often. But if you can find some meaning in those, the novel just might work for you. Decisions and dilemmas. Kundera's characters seem to searching for an elusive something, trying to find that perfect place in life where they would want to live forever. However, it is difficult to know for sure the direction in which that perfect place lies. If they find their current lives suffocating, going the other way could be liberating. But is it worth leaving behind all that will be lost? The moment they take a step ahead, they begin feeling the pull of what they had just turned their back to. Often the choice is not between perfection and imperfection, it is a trade-off. The ability to shape our own lives, to some extent at least, is a power. Sometimes it can be a burden too. Specially when there is no way of knowing what waits for us at the next corner. Do we choose being happy today at the expense of 'What ifs..' plaguing us tomorrow? Or do we put us through an ordeal now in anticipation of it paying off in the future? What if we end up in a mess, unable to turn back? "And therein lies the whole of man's plight. Human time does not run in circles; it runs ahead in a straight line. That is why man cannot be happy: happiness is the longing for repetition." Sometimes we can find the right answers only in retrospect. "We can never know what we want, because, living only one life, we can neither compare it with our previous lives nor perfect it in our lives to come." Kundera speaks of the irony of human life. Having only one life to live, makes the life choices difficult and onerous. It is also because of this very fact of living only one life that these life choices do not have much weight in the bigger picture. And it is this irony which causes the unbearable lightness of being. The only thing that relieves us from this unbearable lightness are fortuitous occurences which, love it or hate it, have a say in making up our lives. "They (human lives) are composed like music. Guided by his sense of beauty, an individual transforms a fortuitous occurence (Beethoven's music, death under a train) into a motif , which then assumes a permanent place in the composition of the individual's life." Love. Kundera does not speak of love in a poetic, all-beautiful manner. What happens when one of the characters packs her life in a suitcase and goes off to be with her lover? Is there music in the air, fluttering butterflies? No. Her stomach makes a rumbling sound the moment she sees her lover...because she hasn't eaten anything all day. "If a love is to be unforgettable, fortuities must immediately start fluttering down to it like birds to Francis of Assisi's shoulders." Finding love does not miraculously solve all their problems. Love is often accompanied by jealousy, mistrust, lies, deceit, pain. Yet they do find some strength in love and do all they can to hold on to it. ""Love is a battle," said Marie-Claude, still smiling. "And I plan to go on fighting. To the end."" Along with these, Kundera touches upon a few other themes as well. Some of those hit the right note, while there were parts that I found trite or pretentious or simply lacking any sense. Take this for example. One of the characters sleeps with every other woman who crosses his path. Kundera philosophizes his physical desire and explains it as a deep-seated intellectual curiosity. Naah, I don't buy that. Then there were pretending-to-be-deep quotes that just went over my head. "Tomas did not realize at the time that metaphors are dangerous. Metaphors are not to be trifled with. A single metaphor can give birth to love. Umm, What? Another thing I found odd was that the author breaks the fourth wall and tries to be defensive about the novel. He comes in and explains how he is not just telling a story, but investigating human lives. He tells us that the characters are merely figments of his imagination (so we shouldn't expect them to be realistic). He tells us that it is wrong to chide a novel for mysterious coincidences (so we shouldn't question the unrealistic events in the plot). Agreed there are some flaws, but I would have forgiven them even without the author explaining himself away.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Amy Reed

    I have a bone to pick with Kundera and his following. People, this has got to be the most over-rated book of human history. I mean, references to infidelity alone (even infidelity that makes use of funky costumes like '50s ganster hats--the only note-and-applauseworthy aspect this book!) do NOT make for good literature, and such is The Unbearable Lightness of Being, in a nutshell. The male protaganist is, hands down, a one-dimensional and boring buffoon, while the female protaganist is lackluste I have a bone to pick with Kundera and his following. People, this has got to be the most over-rated book of human history. I mean, references to infidelity alone (even infidelity that makes use of funky costumes like '50s ganster hats--the only note-and-applauseworthy aspect this book!) do NOT make for good literature, and such is The Unbearable Lightness of Being, in a nutshell. The male protaganist is, hands down, a one-dimensional and boring buffoon, while the female protaganist is lackluster and underdeveloped. This book is not but chicken soup for those obnoxious, lonely intellectuals who wish they could be playaz, and therefore admire Dr. Love's trite antics. In addition, Kundera's references to philosophy and Beethoven were clearly extracted from a cracker jack box. In conclusion, the emperor has no clothes! Kundera-following (and you are the majority), free yourselves (!), and stop pretending that this book is good.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Ahmad Sharabiani

    256. Nesnesitelná lehkost bytí = L’insoutenable légèreté de l’être = The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Milan Kundera The Unbearable Lightness of Being is a 1984 novel by Milan Kundera, about two women, two men, a dog and their lives in the 1968 Prague Spring period of Czechoslovak history. عنوانها: «بار هستی»؛ «کلاه کلمنتیس»؛ نویسنده: میلان کوندرا؛ تاریخ نخستین خوانش روز هشتم ماه سپتامبر سال 1987میلادی؛ و بار دوم: سال 2007میلادی عنوان: بار هستی؛ نویسنده: میلان کوندرا؛ مترجم: پرویز همایون پور؛ مشخ 256. Nesnesitelná lehkost bytí = L’insoutenable légèreté de l’être = The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Milan Kundera The Unbearable Lightness of Being is a 1984 novel by Milan Kundera, about two women, two men, a dog and their lives in the 1968 Prague Spring period of Czechoslovak history. عنوانها: «بار هستی»؛ «کلاه کلمنتیس»؛ نویسنده: میلان کوندرا؛ تاریخ نخستین خوانش روز هشتم ماه سپتامبر سال 1987میلادی؛ و بار دوم: سال 2007میلادی عنوان: بار هستی؛ نویسنده: میلان کوندرا؛ مترجم: پرویز همایون پور؛ مشخصات نشر تهران، گفتار، 1365، در 275ص، موضوع: داستانهای نویسندگان چک - سده ی 20م عنوان: کلاه کلمنتیس؛ نویسنده: میلان کوندرا؛ مترجم: احمد میرعلائی؛ مشخصات نشر تهران، دماوند، 1364، در 178ص، انتشارات باغ نو نیز در سال 1381هجری خورشیدی کتاب را از همین مترجم و در 127ص منتشر کرده است؛ موضوع: ادبیات چک؛ نقد و بررسی - سده 20م کوندرا در توصیف قهرمانان خود میگویند: شخصیتهای رمانی که نوشته ام، امکانات خود من هستند که تحقق نیافته اند، بدین سبب هراسانم، آنها را دوست میدارم، آنها از مرزی گذر کرده اند که من فقط آن را دور زده ام تاریخ بهنگام رسانی 31/05/1399هجری خورشیدی؛ ا. شربیانی

  7. 4 out of 5

    Becky

    13% and I'm done. I have had a run of books that have bored me, or annoyed me, or just did nothing for me. This one is... You know, I don't even know how to describe this one. I pretty much hated it from the first page. I do not understand the high rating on Goodreads for this book. I can barely stand the thought of picking it up again and reading more of the words telling me things about characters that I could not possibly care less about. We have Tomas, whom we meet standing on his balcony an 13% and I'm done. I have had a run of books that have bored me, or annoyed me, or just did nothing for me. This one is... You know, I don't even know how to describe this one. I pretty much hated it from the first page. I do not understand the high rating on Goodreads for this book. I can barely stand the thought of picking it up again and reading more of the words telling me things about characters that I could not possibly care less about. We have Tomas, whom we meet standing on his balcony and vacillating between whether he should ask a woman that he's "in love with" (read: met in a chance encounter and became infatuated with) to move in with him. He's saved from making any kind of fucking decision by her showing up on his doorstep (literally) with her bags packed and ready to move in. Which she does. And then she clings to him (literally) every night - to the point that he controls her sleep patterns. He even, charmer that he is, fucks with her partially-asleep mind and tells her that he's leaving her forever, so that she'll chase him and drag him back home. Tereza (that's the woman - I had to look up her name) begins to have nightmares that he's cheating on her and forcing her to watch after finding a letter from a woman in Tomas's drawer describing that very thing. So then, in the course of a sentence, we learn that Tomas has never stopped womanizing, then that he lied to Tereza about it, then tried to justify it, and now just tries to hide it from her, but won't stop. And she stays. He gets her a dog, because the dog will hopefully "develop lesbian tendencies" and love Tereza, because Tomas can't cope with her and needs help. So yes, Tereza not only stays, but marries him. Why? *shrug* The book said so. So then war comes, and they relocate... but after a while Tereza leaves Tomas (taking the female dog that they named Karenin and now refer to using male pronouns... Maybe to make Tomas feel as though Tereza has a lover as well? Who knows. This book is so stupid...). She leaves him, and I think, "About frigging time." There's no reason for her having decided to leave him NOW, as opposed to any day of the 7 previous years of dreading him coming home smelling of another woman, of fearing that every single woman she sees will be her husband's next conquest. She decided to leave now... because the book said so. And then he realizes that he can't be without her, and goes to her, and she takes him back, and then he realizes he feels nothing for her but mild indigestion and "pressure in his stomach and the despair of having returned". I am a character reader. I need characters that I can identify with, that I can understand, maybe like... but these were none of those things. I don't know them, I don't understand them, I don't identify with them in any way... and I don't want to. I just want to stop reading about them. And so I did.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Madeline

    This book definitely wins the award for Most Pretentious Title Ever. People would ask me what I was reading, and I would have to respond by reading the title in a sarcastic, Oxford-Professor-of-Literature voice to make it clear that I was aware of how obnoxiously superior I sounded. Honestly, Kundera: stop trying so hard. Chill. Out. When I first started reading this book, I really disliked it. Kundera wastes the first two chapters on philosophical ramblings before he finally gets around to telli This book definitely wins the award for Most Pretentious Title Ever. People would ask me what I was reading, and I would have to respond by reading the title in a sarcastic, Oxford-Professor-of-Literature voice to make it clear that I was aware of how obnoxiously superior I sounded. Honestly, Kundera: stop trying so hard. Chill. Out. When I first started reading this book, I really disliked it. Kundera wastes the first two chapters on philosophical ramblings before he finally gets around to telling the story, and even then his own voice darts in and out of the story, interjecting his own opinion into the plot. It's like trying to watch a movie with the director's commentary playing in the background - all you can think is, "shut up and let me watch the movie in peace!" I also thought he was trying way too hard to be a Critically Acclaimed Author; for example: "Tomas did not realize at the time that metaphors are dangerous. Metaphors are not to be trifled with. A single metaphor can give birth to love." Um...sure. Why not. But once he decides to relax a little and actually tell a coherent story, it becomes really engrossing. I was never crazy about Tomas and Tereza, who love each other despite the fact that Tomas is a selfish man-whore (Kundera phrased it more poetically, but that's basically the truth), but I think I understood them. Also, the last 50-some pages of the book were AMAZING, made me cry, and are the reason this book gets four stars instead of three. "We can never know what we want, because, living only one life, we can neither compare it with our previous lives nor perfect it in our lives to come."

  9. 5 out of 5

    Nathan

    The Unbearable Lightness of Being was almost unbearable to read. There was a lot of pseudo-intellectual meandering about things that deserved a little more grit. Rather, I prefer a little more reality. I didn't care about the characters, and I didn't feel like they cared about anything. I feel like saying I was impressed with the thoughtiness of this book, but by the time I typed it I'd be so buried under multiple levels of irony that I'd suddenly be accidentally sincere again. What was I saying The Unbearable Lightness of Being was almost unbearable to read. There was a lot of pseudo-intellectual meandering about things that deserved a little more grit. Rather, I prefer a little more reality. I didn't care about the characters, and I didn't feel like they cared about anything. I feel like saying I was impressed with the thoughtiness of this book, but by the time I typed it I'd be so buried under multiple levels of irony that I'd suddenly be accidentally sincere again. What was I saying? Oh, yeah. I'd probably like this book a lot more if I was having more sex. NC

  10. 4 out of 5

    Riku Sayuj

    The Unbelievable Lightness of The Novel I had started reading this in 2008 and had gotten along quite a bit before I stopped reading the book for some reason and then it was forgotten. Recently, I saw the book in a bookstore and realized that I hadn't finished it. I picked it up and started it all over again since I was not entirely sure where I had left off last time. I was sure however that I had not read more than, say, 30 pages or so. I definitely could not remember reading it for a long The Unbelievable Lightness of The Novel I had started reading this in 2008 and had gotten along quite a bit before I stopped reading the book for some reason and then it was forgotten. Recently, I saw the book in a bookstore and realized that I hadn't finished it. I picked it up and started it all over again since I was not entirely sure where I had left off last time. I was sure however that I had not read more than, say, 30 pages or so. I definitely could not remember reading it for a long period of time. I only remembered starting it and bits and pieces about infidelities and the russian occupation of the Czech. And so, I started reading it, sure that soon a page will come from where the story will be fresh and unread. I was soon into the fiftieth page and was amazed that as I read each page, I could distinctly remember every scene, every philosophical argument, even the exact quotes and the sequence of events that was to come immediately after the scene I was reading- But I could never remember, try as I might, what was coming two pages further into the novel. "This is what comes from reading serious books lightly and not giving them the attention they deserve," I chastised myself, angry at the thought that my habit of reading multiple books in parallel must have been the cause of this. I must, at the risk of appearing boastful, say that the reason this bothered so much was that I always used to take pride in being able to remember the books that I read almost verbatim and this experience of reading a book that I had read before with this sense of knowing and forgetting at the same time, the two sensations running circles around each other and teasing me was completely disorienting. I felt like I was on some surreal world where all that is to come was already known to me but was still being revealed one step out of tune with my time. In any case, this continued, to my bewilderment well into the two hundredth page. Even now, I could not shake the constant expectation that the story was going to go into unread new territories just 2 or 3 pages ahead of where I was. Every line I read I could remember having read before and in spite of making this mistake through so many pages, I still could not but tell myself that this time, surely, I have reached the part where I must have last closed the book three years ago. Thus I have now reached the last few pages of the book and am still trying to come to terms with what it was about this novel that made me forget it, even though I identified with the views of the author and was never bored with the plot. Was this an intentional effect or just an aberration? Will I have the same feeling if I picked up the book again a few years from today? I also feel a slight anger towards the author for playing this trick on me, for leading me on into reading the entire book again, without giving me anything new which I had not received from the book on my first reading. Usually when I decide to read a book again, I do it with the knowledge that I will gain something new with this reading, but Kundera gave me none of that. What I do appreciate about this reading experience is this: as is stated in the novel, anything that happens only once might as well have not happened at all - does it then apply that any novel that can be read only once, might as well have not been read at all? Beethoven & The Art of The Sublime To conclude, I will recount an argument from the book that in retrospect helps me explain the experience: Kundera talks (yes, the book is full of Kundera ripping apart the 'Fourth Wall' and talking to the reader, to the characters and even to himself) about an anecdote on how Beethoven came to compose one of his best quartets due to inspiration from a silly joke he had shared with a friend. So Beethoven turned a frivolous inspiration into a serious quartet, a joke into metaphysical truth. Yet oddly enough, the transformation fails to surprise us. We would have been shocked, on the other hand, if Beethoven had transformed the seriousness of his quartet into the trifling joke. First (as an unfinished sketch) would have come the great metaphysical truth and last (as a finished masterpiece)—the most frivolous of jokes! I would like to think that Kundera achieved this reverse proposition with this novel and that explains how I felt about it. And, yes I finished reading the second last line of the book with the full awareness of what the last line of the novel was going to be.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Violet wells

    Broadly speaking the power source motoring this novel is the battle between arguably the two most fundamental and often conflictual drives in the human psyche - the desire for commitment and the desire for freedom. Commitment Kundera classes as heaviness; freedom as lightness. "When we want to give expression to a dramatic situation in our lives, we tend to use metaphors of heaviness. We say that something has become a great burden to us. We either bear the burden or fail and go down with it, we Broadly speaking the power source motoring this novel is the battle between arguably the two most fundamental and often conflictual drives in the human psyche - the desire for commitment and the desire for freedom. Commitment Kundera classes as heaviness; freedom as lightness. "When we want to give expression to a dramatic situation in our lives, we tend to use metaphors of heaviness. We say that something has become a great burden to us. We either bear the burden or fail and go down with it, we struggle with it, win or lose. Sabina had left a man because she felt like leaving him. Had he persecuted her? Had he tried to take revenge on her? No. Her drama was a drama not of heaviness but of lightness. What fell to her lot was not the burden but the unbearable lightness of being. Until that time, her betrayals had filled her with excitement and joy, because they opened up new paths to new adventures of betrayal. But what if the paths came to an end? One could betray one's parents, husband, country, love, but when parents, husband, country, and love were gone - what was left to betray? Sabina felt emptiness all around her. What if that emptiness was the goal of all her betrayals? Naturally she had not realized it until now. How could she have? The goals we pursue are always veiled. A girl who longs for marriage longs for something she knows nothing about. The boy who hankers after fame has no idea what fame is. The thing that gives our every move its meaning is always totally unknown to us. Sabina was unaware of the goal that lay behind her longing to betray. The unbearable lightness of being - was that the goal?" "The brotherhood of man on earth will be possible only on a basis of kitsch." One of my favourite themes explored in the book was the role kitsch plays in our lives. Empathy is often created through kitsch. American cinema knows and exploits this. The tearful reunion at the end of the film makes us feel good about the human race. "It is always nice to dream that we are part of a jubilant throng marching through the centuries..." Kundera is often at pains to point out we don't respond privately to an experience as we would collectively. "Not long ago, I caught myself experiencing a most incredible sensation. Leafing through a book on Hitler, I was touched by some of his portraits: they reminded me of my childhood. I grew up during the war; several members of my family perished in Hitler's concentration camps; but what were their deaths compared with the memories of a lost period in my life, a period that would never return?" This is not the reaction he ought to be feeling. He's showing us what he privately feels is at odds with the prescribed feeling. And we understand there's often an element of kitsch in the proscribed collective feeling. Because we're pretending we favour the interests of the collective over the personal. "For Sabina, living in truth, lying neither to ourselves nor to others, was possible only away from the public: the moment someone keeps an eye on what we do, we involuntarily make allowances for that eye, and nothing we do is truthful. Having a public, keeping a public in mind, means living in lies." But Kundera isn't too hard on kitsch in our personal lives - "She knew only too well that the song was a beautiful lie. As soon as kitsch is recognized for the lie it is, it moves into the context of non-kitsch, thus losing its authoritarian power and becoming as touching as any other human weakness. For none among us is superman enough to escape kitsch completely. No matter how we scorn it, kitsch is an integral part of the human condition." It's the role kitsch plays in politics that gets his back up. "Kitsch is the aesthetic ideal of all politicians and all political parties and movements." Of course, it's blatantly apparent how much of political and nationalistic and military theatre is pure kitsch. The Nazis took kitsch to a whole new level. It would be comical to watch now if we didn't know what it led to. A whole nation bamboozled into idiocy by kitsch. "Political movements rest not so much on rational attitudes as on the fantasies, images, words, and archetypes that come together to make up this or that political kitsch." National anthems bring it out - the absurdly stiff posture, the clenched fist on heart. Taking pride in something as random and unearned as nationality is little but hollow posturing when you think about it. Nationality is not something you have achieved after all. It's simply the result of a thrown dice. And the same nationality can evoke an inexhaustible number of different images in any given individual. It's essentially a bogus idea of unity. Totalitarian regimes include nations which historically denied women equal rights, countries which enforced racial segregation and persecuted homosexuality. "But the people who struggle against what we call totalitarian regimes cannot function with queries and doubts. They, too, need certainties and simple truths to make the multitudes understand, to provoke collective tears." Which is why women in early 20th century Britain, blacks in America and gays throughout the world were constrained to exaggerate pride in a factor of their lives they had no control over, their sex, their skin colour, their sexuality. And when we see films now about these struggles kitsch is always present. They enable us to feel we are part of the jubilant throng marching through the centuries... Everything is perhaps ultimately turned into kitsch. This probably isn't quite Kundera's best novel but it's a fabulous and inspiring read for all its wisdom and the playful possibilities of fiction it embraces and dramatizes. "As I have pointed out before, characters are not born like people, of woman; they are born of a situation, a sentence, a metaphor containing in a nutshell a basic human possibility that the author thinks no one else has discovered or said something essential about. But isn't it true that an author can write only about himself? Staring impotently across a courtyard, at a loss for what to do; hearing the pertinacious rumbling of one's own stomach during a moment of love; betraying, yet lacking the will to abandon the glamorous path of betrayal; raising one's fist with the crowds in the Grand March; displaying one's wit before hidden microphones-I have known all these situations, I have experienced them myself, yet none of them has given rise to the person my curriculum vitae and I represent. The characters in my novels are my own unrealized possibilities. That is why I am equally fond of them all and equally horrified by them. Each one has crossed a border that I myself have circumvented. It is that crossed border (the border beyond which my own "I" ends) which attracts me most. For beyond that border begins the secret the novel asks about. The novel is not the author's confession; it is an investigation of human life in the trap the world has become."

  12. 5 out of 5

    Weinz

    I spent part of my lazy weekend reading this book on the grassy hills of The Huntington Library surrounded by gardens, art, and beauty. Even the serene surroundings and my sensational reading date could not make up for this book. Weak characters, horrible assumptions, pseudo philosophy, and no clear grasp of how women are actually motivated. Only wannabe Lotharios who pride themselves as philosophers would enjoy this. I tried. I really did.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Steven Godin

    Seems odd that I'd read Kundera seven times previously and one of those seven books was not The Unbearable Lightness of Being. But for whatever reason that's the way it went down. All I can say is that it was worth the wait. I simply loved Immortality, Laughable Loves too, and this was every bit as good. If anything, I found it even better. Before I even started reading I pondered over this cover. I knew as little as possible about the novel previously. Other than Prague, sex, and a dog featured Seems odd that I'd read Kundera seven times previously and one of those seven books was not The Unbearable Lightness of Being. But for whatever reason that's the way it went down. All I can say is that it was worth the wait. I simply loved Immortality, Laughable Loves too, and this was every bit as good. If anything, I found it even better. Before I even started reading I pondered over this cover. I knew as little as possible about the novel previously. Other than Prague, sex, and a dog featured. Was it a man who liked wearing women's underwear? Or a woman who had a thing for Bowler hats? Or a hat, a bra, and a pair of panties from three different people? Now all becomes clear! And I can't stop thinking about Sabina's orgasmic shout! Kundera's Philosophical musings blended together with lots of romping didn't surprise me one bit. What did though was how everything came together to make a novel with characters I truly cared for. Don't think I've come across such a warm bonding with Kundera's men and women previously. Oh, and of course there's Karenin too, who could forget, and I'm normally a cat lover. How I would have loved to play catch with him, take him for walks, let him sleep at the end of my bed, lick me in the face to wake me up in the morning. Now I want a dog! Back to the humans - Tomas is one of four main characters born frankly of images in Kundera's mind. All of them to one extent or another enact the paradox of choices that are not choices, of courses of action that are indistinguishable in consequence from their opposite. He shows us Sabina, a painter, as she is deciding whether or not to keep her current lover, Franz, a university professor. Franz is physically strong. If he used his strength on her and ordered her about, Sabina knows she wouldn't put up with him for more than five minutes. But he is gentle, like a pacified bear, and because she believes physical love must be violent she finds Franz rather dull. Either way, whatever Franz does, she will have to leave him and move on. Sabina lives by betrayal by abandoning family, her lovers, and, in the end, her country, in a way that condemns her to what Kundera calls a lightness of being, by which he means an existence so lacking in commitment, fidelity, or moral responsibility to anyone else as to be unattached to the real world. By contrast, his fourth character, Tereza, the loyal wife of Tomas, suffers an unflagging love for her philandering husband that finally is responsible for his ruin in the medical profession, because it's her unwillingness to live in exile that brings him back to his fate in Czechoslovakia after he has set himself up nicely in a Swiss hospital. Thus, Tereza, the exact opposite of Sabina in commitment and rootedness, descends under an unbearable moral burden, weight and lightness, in the Kunderian physics, which adds up to the same thing. I could try and pick bits and pieces of the novel that stood out for me. Only I can't. Because I loved everything about it, all equally. Without a single moment when I thought 'Umm, does that really need to be in there' This for me is Kundera in truly formidable form. And it's no surprise the book was, is, and will continue to be, so popular with readers. And let's face it, would it have been so popular if it wasn't for the sex? I doubt it. But it's so much more than that, and if it isn't one of the best things I end up reading this year, then I've gone completely round the bend! Thank you Mr Kundera, You're an absolute genius!

  14. 5 out of 5

    Julie

    Three hikers are out on a walk, and it starts to rain. Within minutes, they realize that they've been caught in a powerful storm, and they quickly find shelter under a rock overhang. As they are pressed back against the side of the sharp rock, they unknowingly perceive the storm in three very different ways. Hiker #1 finds the unpredictability of the storm wild, wonderful and erotic. She knows that you can not control nature, nor would she be foolish enough to think that she could understand wha Three hikers are out on a walk, and it starts to rain. Within minutes, they realize that they've been caught in a powerful storm, and they quickly find shelter under a rock overhang. As they are pressed back against the side of the sharp rock, they unknowingly perceive the storm in three very different ways. Hiker #1 finds the unpredictability of the storm wild, wonderful and erotic. She knows that you can not control nature, nor would she be foolish enough to think that she could understand what was happening, what it means, or when it will end. She loves the feel of the rain on her face and the wind in her hair. Hiker #2 is terrified by the storm. She is crouched down, eyes closed, hands over her ears, and she is convinced that they are going to die. She winces as each bolt of lightning strikes down before them and her heart is racing in discomfort and confusion. She wishes it would all go away. Hiker #3 is a busy guy, a man who had to be convinced to join the hike in the first place. He realizes that this storm will delay them by at least a good half hour, and, in his disgust, he refuses to speak to or acknowledge the fear or excitement of his fellow hikers. He feels angry that his time is being wasted, and he's anxious over the loss of cell service. After the storm, the three hikers have three different responses to the storm: Hiker #1 goes home to write a poem and prepare a hearty meal. Hiker #2 vows to give up caffeine and swears she'll never hike again. Hiker #3 posts a nasty tweet (disparaging Mother Nature) from his car, as soon as his cell service is restored. Coincidentally, all three hikers were reading The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera, at the time of the storm, but the topic never came up on their walk. They will finish the book at three different times and go on to have three completely different reactions to the writing. Ironically, they will respond similarly to how they responded to the storm.

  15. 5 out of 5

    jessica

    my second year at university, i took a philosophy course for my required humanities credit. this was my first experience with the subject and i realised on the first day of class that my brain is just not hardwired for that level of abstract thinking and processing. so why, you may ask, did i read about a book that is philosophical in nature?? because i honestly cant get over how poetically beautiful the title is. just something about it resonates so deeply with me. i dont want to give away the my second year at university, i took a philosophy course for my required humanities credit. this was my first experience with the subject and i realised on the first day of class that my brain is just not hardwired for that level of abstract thinking and processing. so why, you may ask, did i read about a book that is philosophical in nature?? because i honestly cant get over how poetically beautiful the title is. just something about it resonates so deeply with me. i dont want to give away the significance of the title, as it plays a meaningful role in the story, but this story explores life (and the possible insignificance of it), the purpose of coincidences and fate, love, betrayal, loss, and infidelity. as far as the philosophy of this book goes, it isnt dense and is fairly easy to comprehend. i thought the writing style actually presented its deeper thoughts in a very accessible and relatable manner (so no horrific flashbacks from my uni course! yay!). the subtextual messages and thought-provoking ideas were actually my favourite part of the book. what i didnt quite like was the surface level stuff, like the plot and characters. i honestly didnt enjoy any of the four main characters and their stories felt very unremarkable to me. it did take some time to warm up to it all, so i can see myself potentially appreciating the story more with a reread. overall, reading this book is quite a contemplative experience. this isnt a story that changed how i view life, but it did make me stop and think about certain aspects of it; so its not difficult to understand how this is novel considered a classic. ↠ 3.5 stars

  16. 5 out of 5

    Adina

    Milan Kundera’s book was the first title I added to Goodreads back in 2013. Despite that, it took me a while to finally read it. I guess I was a bit afraid that the philosophy dense prose will be too much for me without background in this subject. I needn’t had worried as I enjoyed most of it and I did not feell overwhelmed. “We can never know what to want, because, living only one life, we can either compare it with our previous lives nor perfect it in our lives to come” I believe that Kundera’s Milan Kundera’s book was the first title I added to Goodreads back in 2013. Despite that, it took me a while to finally read it. I guess I was a bit afraid that the philosophy dense prose will be too much for me without background in this subject. I needn’t had worried as I enjoyed most of it and I did not feell overwhelmed. “We can never know what to want, because, living only one life, we can either compare it with our previous lives nor perfect it in our lives to come” I believe that Kundera’s characters are searching for the ideal life without actually knowing which one it is and they are confused about what is the direction they should take. They make life altering decisions and then they feel chocked by them. However, when considering the option to go the other way and free themselves there is the fear that the road could lead to their peril. Having the ability to make choices gives one power but can also be overwhelming. The author is saying that, since we live only one life, our decisions are difficult to make as there is no comparison. However, as we live only one life our decisions do not matter much in the big picture as reputation increase the importance. As Tomas puts it, Einmal is keinmal. “The novel is not the author’s confession; it is an investigation of human life in the trap the world has become. “ I feel like the characters are trapped by the social and political environment, their own choices and the incapacity to realise what they want from life. There were some parts I did not enjoy as much about the book. I was a bit furious with the misogyny of Kundera and wanted to shake Teresa to come back to her senses. She said she wanted more from her life and then she ends up accepting a cheating husband although it made her miserable.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Amalia Gkavea

    “When the heart speaks, the mind finds it indecent to object.” A journey to the Odyssey of the human soul, its desires, its vices, all the little voices in our heads that prompts us to be mad and reckless and docile. And we can’t help it. Sometimes, this is our only response when the heart decides to take the upper hand against our firm will (not so firm then, is it?) “She loved to walk down the street with a book under her arm. It had the same significance for her as an elegant cane for t “When the heart speaks, the mind finds it indecent to object.” A journey to the Odyssey of the human soul, its desires, its vices, all the little voices in our heads that prompts us to be mad and reckless and docile. And we can’t help it. Sometimes, this is our only response when the heart decides to take the upper hand against our firm will (not so firm then, is it?) “She loved to walk down the street with a book under her arm. It had the same significance for her as an elegant cane for the dandy a century ago. It differentiated her from others.” A journey to the Spring of Prague and a country that wanted her freedom, her justice back. A masterpiece of lost souls wandering in the Golden City. An elegy of obsession and madness. And a monumental adaptation (1988) by Philip Kauffman, starring the inimitable Daniel Day-Lewis. “The brain appears to possess a special area which we might call poetic memory and which records everything that charms or touches us, that makes our lives beautiful ... Love begins with a metaphor. Which is to say, love begins at the point when a woman enters her first word into our poetic memory.”

  18. 5 out of 5

    Jeffrey Keeten

    ”It is wrong, then ,to chide the novel for being fascinated by mysterious coincidences (like the meeting of Anna, Vronsky, the railway station, and death or the meeting of Beethoven, Tomas, Tereza, and the cognac), but it is right to chide man for being blind to such coincidences in his daily life. For he thereby deprives his life of a dimension of beauty.” We all have odd, wonderful, and disastrous things happen to us that make us believe that, as mysterious as life is, there are still times ”It is wrong, then ,to chide the novel for being fascinated by mysterious coincidences (like the meeting of Anna, Vronsky, the railway station, and death or the meeting of Beethoven, Tomas, Tereza, and the cognac), but it is right to chide man for being blind to such coincidences in his daily life. For he thereby deprives his life of a dimension of beauty.” We all have odd, wonderful, and disastrous things happen to us that make us believe that, as mysterious as life is, there are still times when we experience a series of sometimes small events, serendipitous moments, when we feel the Great OZ or some wizard or creature is pulling the levers of our lives. We can ignore them or scoff at them, demean them by calling them coincidences, or we can choose to believe there is a bit of magic gently bumping us in directions that will hopefully lead us to greater happiness. One could be paranoid and think that, when we ignore the magic, maybe that is when we lead ourselves to tragedy. There have been times when I’ve wanted to tackle these enigmatic moments with a white board, colored markers, and logic. This event has to happen for this series of events to happen to encourage me to make this decision. But what if I do prove that everything is just a series of random coincidences influenced by my haphazard decision making ability and that there is no magic? Well, then I would deprive my life of a “dimension of beauty”. Stark truth is rarely a good trade off for a belief in the possibility of magical moments. So what brings Tomas and Tereza together? A shared interest in Beethoven? The number six? Anna Karenina? An ordered cognac? They have a brief meeting in Tereza’s small town, which Tomas is visiting to perform a specialized surgery, but somehow as Tomas speeds off back to Prague, Tereza manages to snare a hook in his collar that unspools a line between them that’s even better than bread crumbs. When she shows up on his doorstep in Prague, Tomas is surprised, but not too surprised. He has this effect on women that makes them want to do whatever he wants. He accepts this as just part of the natural order of his life. What does surprise him is that he allows Tereza to spend the night and then more nights and more. ”Tomas came to this conclusion: Making love with a woman and sleeping with a woman are two separate passions, not merely different but opposite. Love does not make itself felt in the desire for copulation (a desire that extends to an infinite number of women) but in the desire for shared sleep (a desire limited to one woman).” He doesn’t stop sleeping with other women, even as his relationship with Tereza deepens. One “conquest” in particular, an artist named Sabina, becomes a friend as well as a lover. They are very much alike. Men flock to her in the same way that women flock to him. Sabina is actually my favorite character in the novel and made forever famous by her portrayal by Lena Olin in the 1988 movie. Who can forget her grandfather’s bowler hat, her mirrors, her casual nakedness, and her enticing lingerie? Kundera defines her character best through her relationship with the married and besotted Franz. The more committed he becomes the more anxious she becomes. Her lightness of being is threatened. Even though Tomas is philosophically opposed to marriage, he surprises himself when he asks Tereza to marry him. The whiteboard diagram for this odd occurrence would be circles upon circles. He isn’t right for Tereza, but somehow he is perfect. Tomas has a lightness of being that is admirable and could make the most level-headed person covetous of his easy, charming manner. If truth be known, many people would like to have a life with a stable spouse, but still be able to have affairs. Those who resist the urge do so out of fear of losing the stability of their lives. Tereza does know about his affairs. His dalliances are trapped in the follicles of his hair. He regrets the pain he causes her, but cannot resist the siren songs of other women. ”Tomas was obsessed by the desire to discover and appropriate that one-millionth part; he saw it as the core of his obsession. He was not obsessed with women; he was obsessed with what in each of them is unimaginable, obsessed, in other words, with the one-millionth part that makes a woman dissimilar to others of her sex.” Tereza does leave him, and in the end, the fact that he follows her deprives him of his profession. The novel is set against the Prague Spring in 1968, and as Tereza makes trouble with her politically incendiary pictures, Tomas writes an article comparing communism to the Oedipus story. The Soviets are not amused, so instead of plying his talents as a brilliant brain surgeon, the Soviets decide he is more useful as a window washer. Oh, and I mustn’t forget Karenin, the dog they acquire by “chance” on their marriage day. There are particularly poignant scenes with the dog that have proved to be among the most memorable for me from the book and movie. The reason I score the book a 4 instead of a 5 is because Milan Kundera gets sidetracked with sharing his philosophical beliefs. I found myself mildly annoyed by these diversions because I wanted to get back to the saga of Tereza, Tomas, Franz, and Sabina. After rereading the book, I decided that I needed to rewatch the movie as well. The movie weighs in at 172 minutes, which is a lot of film for a rather short novel. The book is here, carefully trapped in cellophane, and the movie doesn’t exist without Milan Kundera, but the director, Philip Kaufman, has stripped out the unnecessary diversions and allowed the viewers to concentrate on the evolving story of the four main characters. I love the casting for the movie, with the incredibly talented Daniel Day-Lewis, Juliette Binoche, and Lena Olin, who were all so young in 1988 and just beginning their fabulous careers. I believe that reading a book and then watching the movie enhances my experience. Some feel one or the other is enough and even think that one might “ruin” the other, so depending on what type of reader/watcher you are, you do have a decision to make. Will your decision be serendipitous or will it be based in a framework of logic? If my reviews are an influence (dare I say magical influence :-)) on your book life and I am asked my opinion between the book or the movie, I would give you a gentle push to the movie. I wash my hands of the ripples that ensue. If you wish to see more of my most recent book and movie reviews, visit http://www.jeffreykeeten.com I also have a Facebook blogger page at:https://www.facebook.com/JeffreyKeeten and an Instagram account https://www.instagram.com/jeffreykeeten/

  19. 4 out of 5

    Seemita

    It's rare that I come across a title and intuitively tag it as an oxymoron; rarer still, I continue to silently contemplate the space lying between the duo. Unbearable Lightness. How is lightness, unbearable? Isn’t it the right of heaviness for all I know? But the oxymoron is further granted a neighbor – Being. And that muddles up the equation for good. What is Being? A floating mass of dissimilar silos, each absorbing and dispersing in surprisingly equal measure to stay afloat? Or a concrete str It's rare that I come across a title and intuitively tag it as an oxymoron; rarer still, I continue to silently contemplate the space lying between the duo. Unbearable Lightness. How is lightness, unbearable? Isn’t it the right of heaviness for all I know? But the oxymoron is further granted a neighbor – Being. And that muddles up the equation for good. What is Being? A floating mass of dissimilar silos, each absorbing and dispersing in surprisingly equal measure to stay afloat? Or a concrete structure of unified sketch without an exit, so everything entering its surface always lay within, if only in pale remnants? It’s the curse of contemplation that draws a bridge between this airborne lightness and earthbound heaviness and lets run a stream under it which, although, palpable, remains an enigma in life’s moonlit moments; we know the stream is running but don't know whether it's upstream or downstream; we know it has a temperature but don't know if a hand dipped in it would come out easy or numb; we know its flow can be moderated by erecting pragmatic wedges but don't know the location of sturdy land underneath. Just the image of standing immobilized over the bridge, with the reflections of lightness and heaviness banks running through our eyes like a movie, can bear a print of many, many people, the protagonists of this novel included. A whole lifetime of four intellectuals in the unstable Prague of 1900s was spent in deciding the bank to advance to, although each assumed they had a bank in eye, propped by their distinctive weapons. The doctor in Tomas and the artist in Tereza embraced heaviness of Being in their continued fidelity to each other with the ironic support of his sexual outings and her unvacillating desolation. The artist in Sabina (Tomas' mistress) and the academic in Franz (Sabina's partner) responded to lightness of Being in their effortless freeing of each other's emotions in the favour of the adrenaline rush that uncertainty brings. On the surface, an intelligible lie; underneath, the unintelligible truth. As a spectator perched on Kundera’s hill, I felt sheepishly sorry for the four as their assumptions faded under occasional showers of doubt but they held on to their residual shades since habits are hard to abandon. Everything that cannot be fathomed or fought, is labelled 'es muss sein' (it must be). A whole doctrine can be poured over as guidelines to wade this stream, caressing the surface with strokes of honesty, love, fidelity and optimism and pushing lie, betrayal and cowardice violently behind. But it is way easy to mark the 'surface' and 'underneath' in a painting; nigh impossible in life. Who knows what thunderous flash might turn either bank unattractive? Everyone who enters this cryptic stream is not looking to reach a bank; some simply grapple in the water, content by the thuds of moving waves of misgivings and contemplation that impart a certain momentum to their otherwise still lives. Sometimes, it’s the chaos that rings in a lullaby and no amount of Beethoven’s notes can prove a worthy competitor. I continued to look at these four figures that shrunk as the twilight ventured and I was left with this sombre feeling in my heart: Questioning love, cuts it short a bit, But questioning is a dogged human habit; Limping in cowardice is in sour taste, But often leisure’s baton is flaming haste; The clamour of new things reinstates the old, And old remains just as difficult to behold; Present lays quiet in dreams’ hostage, And dreams never reach a mature age; Freedom binds and Binding frees, But everyone leads a life on lease; When cemeteries appear gardens and uncertainty, a song, The heaviness of life takes lightness along. (view spoiler)[The references to Nietzsche, Tolstoy and Beethoven are tantalizingly well-placed. But the icing on the cake is the concept of 'kitsch'! (hide spoiler)]

  20. 4 out of 5

    Robin

    I felt this book was contrived and to me it seemed as if the author tried desperately to sound intellectual. Instead he came off egotistical. First off all the meandering about Nietzche and quite frankly he set me off to start off by making statements I couldn't agree but he goes right on as if it is a trueism that everyone must believe in. To be quite frank the characters were boring. The prose was uninteresting. There was no emotion, no real depth, and how many times to I have to hear about hi I felt this book was contrived and to me it seemed as if the author tried desperately to sound intellectual. Instead he came off egotistical. First off all the meandering about Nietzche and quite frankly he set me off to start off by making statements I couldn't agree but he goes right on as if it is a trueism that everyone must believe in. To be quite frank the characters were boring. The prose was uninteresting. There was no emotion, no real depth, and how many times to I have to hear about him pluking the woman from the reed basket - please! Another reviewer mentioned slogging thorugh life and this book - I couldn't agree more - it was a chore and that's not what we read for. I finally "gave up the ghost" so maybe I shouldn't review it since I've not read it all the way through but bad is bad, and I can't see how this was going to turn itself around. This author has created a facade - he talks a good story, with lots of smoke and mirrors with words that sound intellectual but there is no real depth there. (Overrated) Rhetorical games, combined with recurrent references to Nietzsche and Beethoven, create an intellectual facade that seems much weightier than it really is. Built on many false presumptions and bolstered by an epic, scholarly tone, the novel has potential to be interesting in its musings, but just can't be taken seriously as a work of philosophical or psychological depth. I would recommend that people avoid this book - There are so much better uses of their time. Robin [email protected] Medieval fantasy series: The Crown Conspiracy (Oct 2008), Avempartha (April 2009) Upcoming Book Signings at: http://www.michaelsullivan-author.com...

  21. 4 out of 5

    Ahmad Sharabiani

    Nesnesitelná Lehkost Bytí = The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Milan Kundera In The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Milan Kundera tells the story of a young woman in love with a man torn between his love for her and his incorrigible womanizing and one of his mistresses and her humbly faithful lover. This magnificent novel juxtaposes geographically distant places, brilliant and playful reflections, and a variety of styles to take its place as perhaps the major achievement of one of the world’s trul Nesnesitelná Lehkost Bytí = The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Milan Kundera In The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Milan Kundera tells the story of a young woman in love with a man torn between his love for her and his incorrigible womanizing and one of his mistresses and her humbly faithful lover. This magnificent novel juxtaposes geographically distant places, brilliant and playful reflections, and a variety of styles to take its place as perhaps the major achievement of one of the world’s truly great writers. عنوانها: بار هستی؛ کلاه کلمنتیس؛ نویسنده: میلان کوندرا؛ تاریخ نخستین خوانش: هشتم ماه سپتامبر سال 1987میلادی؛ و بار دوم: سال 2007میلادی عنوان: کلاه کلمنتیس؛ نویسنده: میلان کوندرا؛ مترجم: احمد میرعلائی؛ مشخصات نشر: تهران، دماوند، 1364، در 178ص، انتشارات باغ نو نیز در سال 1381 کتاب را از همین مترجم و در 127 ص منتشر کرده است؛ موضوع: ادبیات چک؛ نقد و بررسی - سده 20م عنوان: بار هستی؛ نویسنده: میلان کوندرا؛ مترجم: پرویز همایون پور؛ مشخصات نشر: تهران، گفتار، 1365، در 275ص، موضوع: داستانهای نویسندگان چک سده 20م کوندرا در توصیف قهرمانان خود میگویند: شخصیتهای رمانی که نوشته ام، امکانات خود من هستند که تحقق نیافته اند، بدین سبب هراسانم، نیز آنها را دوست میدارم، آنها از مرزی گذر کرده اند که من فقط آن را دور زده ام تاریخ بهنگام رسانی 03/04/1399هجری خورشیدی؛ ا. شربیانی

  22. 4 out of 5

    Samra Yusuf

    The desire for utopia is the basis of the world's ills, we are too much narcissistic to take life an ingenuous phenomenon, the fear of oblivion has always titillated Man to fancy another life after this one, the failure to cope facts led Man to dwell in highlands of fantasy, and the failure to cope the ratiocination of universe made our earth pregnant with religions so many, all we were to do was to live, to live to the fullest of the moments we have here, and to love, to love those who ceased c The desire for utopia is the basis of the world's ills, we are too much narcissistic to take life an ingenuous phenomenon, the fear of oblivion has always titillated Man to fancy another life after this one, the failure to cope facts led Man to dwell in highlands of fantasy, and the failure to cope the ratiocination of universe made our earth pregnant with religions so many, all we were to do was to live, to live to the fullest of the moments we have here, and to love, to love those who ceased caring for us a long time ago, so long as we keep living, all we are to do is love. Kundera intellectualizes this simplest of thing as “lightness of being “his story takes its origin from Nietzsche’s eternal resurrection and body-soul dualism, the air of whole book is quite blue as compared to the existential approach toward life of his main characters. The principal act of author’s imagination is epitomized by them, which is to conceive of a paradox and express it elegantly. The paradox he is most fond of is the essential identity of opposites and he is never hesitant to express it time and again.... It could easily be a “book of sexual encounters” as we come to witness so much of what is normally expected of the reader to grasp on his own, in an explicit manner, giving the book an artificial aura sort of, we might be concupiscent for a while and commiserate at the other, the whole air of the book and tone never touches the inner chords, it seems to be merely populated by some puppets the author had to place in order to exert his philosophy, I might conform to his idea of living life but I remained totally detached from the fashion his characters adopted to put it in practical. At times I felt kundera was desperate to done his philosophical musings in robes of an erotic story, he failed at both grounds miserably. He writes beautifully, quite redolent even, he has that scholarly tone in his prose we so savor in writings, (recall the sumptuousness of Marry Shelly in her Frankenstein) but just can't be taken seriously as a work of philosophical or psychological depth.

  23. 4 out of 5

    dirt

    the people in this book have a lot of sex. 75% of the book is getting down and doing the nasty (or thinking about it). the sex parts are written in that lofty academic language of "heat" and "passion". the word moist is used liberally. all the really raunchy stuff about body fluids is left out. though probably not too much fluid was exchanged because these people fucked and fucked and fucked and never had babies. the really interesting stuff comes between the sex parts. the book is propelled alon the people in this book have a lot of sex. 75% of the book is getting down and doing the nasty (or thinking about it). the sex parts are written in that lofty academic language of "heat" and "passion". the word moist is used liberally. all the really raunchy stuff about body fluids is left out. though probably not too much fluid was exchanged because these people fucked and fucked and fucked and never had babies. the really interesting stuff comes between the sex parts. the book is propelled along with a series of misunderstandings. coincidences and other people actions are easy to misinterpret. is this song playing because the universe is conspiring to send me a message? do you understand me when i stand naked in front of a mirror wearing a bowler cap? probably not, unless you have read this book. shared understanding only develops over time. the idea of the soul is huge: "A long time ago, man would listen in amazement to the sound of regular beats in his chest, never suspecting what they were. He was unable to identify himself with so alien and unfamiliar an object as the body. The body was a cage, and inside the cage was something which looked, listened, feared, thought, and marveled; that something, that remainder left over after the body had been accounted for, was the soul. Today, of course, the body is no longer unfamiliar: we know that the beating in our chest is the heart and that the nose is the nozzle of a hose sticking out of the body to take oxygen to the lungs. The face is nothing but an instrument panel registering all the body mechanisms: digestion, sight, hearing, respiration, thought. Ever since man has learned to give each part of the body a name, the body has given him less trouble. He has also learned that the soul is nothing more than the gray matter of the brain in action. The old duality of body and soul has become shrouded in scientific terminology, and we can laugh at it as merely an obsolete prejudice. But just make someone who has fallen in love listen to his stomach rumble, the unity of body and soul, that lyrical illusion of the age of science, instantly fades away." a question raised by the author, is our body a reflection of our soul? do we have a pretty face because we have a pretty soul? another topic was our life as music. the motifs introduced early in our life are repeated as we grow older. when we are old the music is largely set. few new themes and ideas are added. i don't particularly agree with these ideas, but it does give you something to munch on and ponder. the book abounds with interesting and unanswerable questions. you might be asking yourself, "what does mr. kundera think about questions?" this is your answer: "Indeed, the only truly serious questions are ones that even a child can formulate. Only the most naive questions are truly serious. They are questions with no answers. A question with no answer is a barrier that cannot be breached. In other words, it is questions with no answers that set the limit for human possibilities, describe the boundaries of human existence."

  24. 5 out of 5

    Samadrita

    Rarely do I come across a book which stubbornly evades categorization of any kind, managing to keep the reader behind a veil of mystification till the very end. Like while you were reading, the book kept on giving you one insightful glimpse after another into the convoluted workings of the human psyche. But when it ended, whatever the narrative managed to encapsulate within the scope of a few hundred pages, vanished in a puff of smoke without leaving any tangible proof of its prior existence. I Rarely do I come across a book which stubbornly evades categorization of any kind, managing to keep the reader behind a veil of mystification till the very end. Like while you were reading, the book kept on giving you one insightful glimpse after another into the convoluted workings of the human psyche. But when it ended, whatever the narrative managed to encapsulate within the scope of a few hundred pages, vanished in a puff of smoke without leaving any tangible proof of its prior existence. I will, perhaps, be accused of being desperate about drawing correlations between the title 'The Unbearable Lightness of Being' and my own experiences with the book, but as much as there maybe a little truth in that allegation, the book did make me feel exactly the way I stated. It made me experience a sort of dizzying lightness after I was done with it, made my existence seem like an inconsequential matter, as if I am always making more out of my life than what it actually is, just the way Tomas, Tereza, Franz and Sabina did. Essentially, this is a novel of ideas, so flexible and rapidly altering, that it can easily bend itself to fit whatever shape one's mind is in. In fact I believe, different readers will arrive at different interpretations after reading. While weaving its way in and out of the lives of its 4 main characters and their individual reflections on various subjects, the narrative manages to capture the throes of a nation caught in the vice-like grip of Soviet persecution in addition to losing its way occasionally in a thread of philosophical rumination. What constitutes real suffering? Is the threat of Communism spreading over Eastern Europe the real malaise leading up to the continuous cycle of oppression perpetuated by totalitarian regimes or are all political ideologies capable of sowing seeds of future conflict? Are humans inherently averse to status quo or does there exist a general human resistance to both change and continuity? Does romantic love really entrench itself into the Platonic theory of finding the missing pieces of ourselves or is that just a mere attempt on our parts at dramatizing an utterly mundane occurrence? Is love the end-result of a fortunate crossing of two different paths or is it an amorphous entity which rests somewhere in the realm of the incomprehensible and the ineffable? Don't we often mistake commiseration for love, imagine our emotional attachment to people and places rather than actually experience it? Milan Kundera leaves us with a lot of disturbing existential questions to ponder over but doesn't struggle to answer any one of them definitively, choosing, instead, to leave us in the middle of a fruitful discussion where the reader is as much a participant as the writer. Perhaps because there are no clear-cut answers to these questions. For as much as we strive to fish out meaning from the jumbled mess of our lives, accord some greater significance to each one of our decisions, actions or sentiments, eventually every one of them is steeped in the fundamental need for some deeply personal, even preposterous wish fulfillment. "....Because human lives are composed in precisely such a fashion. They are composed like music. Guided by his sense of beauty, an individual transforms a fortuitous occurrence (Beethoven's music, death under a train) into a motif, which then assumes a permanent place in the composition of the individual's life." P.S.:- I'll never view the word 'kitsch' in the same way again. P.P.S:- Do read it, if you haven't already.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Chloe

    You know those books that you finish and then immediately begin again because they were just that good? That's what happened with Unbearable Lightness and me. After turning the page on the incredibly heart-wrenching last chapter, I needed to begin it anew so that I could savor those doughnuts of wisdom that Kundera tosses out like they were stale day-olds. After reading the first few chapters of the book, I wrote a note to myself that said "If Love in the Time of Cholera is a representative of La You know those books that you finish and then immediately begin again because they were just that good? That's what happened with Unbearable Lightness and me. After turning the page on the incredibly heart-wrenching last chapter, I needed to begin it anew so that I could savor those doughnuts of wisdom that Kundera tosses out like they were stale day-olds. After reading the first few chapters of the book, I wrote a note to myself that said "If Love in the Time of Cholera is a representative of Latin passion and willingness to fling oneself off the cliffs of insanity, then The Unbearable Lightness of Being is its Teutonic counterpart. This book is filled with enough neuroses, doubt and angst to keep Freudian analysts busy for thousands of billable hours and make the reader wonder whether love is even worth all of the trouble." I thought that would make a great beginning of a review. Then I kept reading and realized that my first impressions, that this is a book about love and it's fall-out, was a remarkably short-sighted interpretation of this grand epic. Sure, this book deals with love, but only so far as we can say that life inevitably deals with love at some point along the way. Kundera's greatness is that he attempts to chart the intertwining paths of life that groups of people take and how chance encounters that mean so little to one party can have profound, life-changing ramifications for the other. How one person can be cursed to flit through life living only skin deep, the titular Unbearable Lightness, while another drags their guilt and lust with them like some albatross strung about their neck. How national identity does shape who we are, no matter how far we run from the country itself. Any review that I could write of this book would do no justice to the book itself. It is beautiful. It is heart-breaking (I could title this review "Animals in Literature and Why They Kill Me Every Fucking Time"). It gives you hope for your own life and then rips it away at the last possible second. This is a book that makes you believe that writing is an art form and the grandmasters of the craft are sorrowfully few and far between. This is a book that I know I will reread again and again as the years go by and experience reshapes me along the way, if only to see how these different iterations of Logan react to Kundera's genius.

  26. 4 out of 5

    MJ Nicholls

    A good Europop lit-fic offering—a bit outmoded now, like Snap! or 2Unlimited. But still compelling fodder for philosophising undergrads with higher aspirations than erotic encounters with their right hands. The narrator is droll, sardonic, wise, and almost unbearably smug. In fact, I thought about using the line The Unbearable Smugness of Being but I decided not to because . . . drat! Also: I have vivid memories of the film version, where Juliette Binoche’s underpants ride up her crack in a most A good Europop lit-fic offering—a bit outmoded now, like Snap! or 2Unlimited. But still compelling fodder for philosophising undergrads with higher aspirations than erotic encounters with their right hands. The narrator is droll, sardonic, wise, and almost unbearably smug. In fact, I thought about using the line The Unbearable Smugness of Being but I decided not to because . . . drat! Also: I have vivid memories of the film version, where Juliette Binoche’s underpants ride up her crack in a most pleasing manner for the teenage male viewer. I’m sure when Kundera wrote this novel he wanted his expansive intellectual vision reduced to reminiscences of cinematic titillation. I’m sure he’d appreciate this review’s emphasis on tawdriness over complex discourse on Czech politics. I’m sure. So: this hasn’t become a favourite. It was solid intelligent lit-fic: repetitious in places, ambitious in structure, scattershot in plot. I tripped up over the amount of quotable lines and overlooked the endless use of the catchphrase Es muss sein! I didn’t say anything when the Tomas plot turned into Confessions of a Window Cleaner (Manny’s favourite book, so I am told). I even cut Tereza some slack for being a self-loathing dormouse, and the other characters adulterous imbeciles who intellectualise their childish behaviour and hopscotch across Europe at the first sign of trouble. I think art and adultery make for entertaining bedfellows. If someone fellates you at the opera, is that somehow less damaging than getting fellated in a motel? Kundera doesn’t address this question exactly, but it would make for a good final book. He’s 82 now. Somehow, that makes this review seem even more disrespectful. I’ll pull the plug.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Darwin8u

    “In the sunset of dissolution, everything is illuminated by the aura of nostalgia, even the guillotine.” ― Milan Kundera, The Unbearable Lightness Of Being After hearing last month that the great Slavic translator Michael Henry Heim had died, I thought it was about time to read some Kundera. I enjoyed the concept of ULoB probably better than the actual book (although I still felt the book was exceptional). I certainly have my own issues with both Nietzsche's idea of eternal recurrance and Kundera “In the sunset of dissolution, everything is illuminated by the aura of nostalgia, even the guillotine.” ― Milan Kundera, The Unbearable Lightness Of Being After hearing last month that the great Slavic translator Michael Henry Heim had died, I thought it was about time to read some Kundera. I enjoyed the concept of ULoB probably better than the actual book (although I still felt the book was exceptional). I certainly have my own issues with both Nietzsche's idea of eternal recurrance and Kundera's alternative and existential 'lightness of being', but couldn't avoid liking the lugubrious way Kundera approached his subject and the way he explored the messy triangulations of life, love, history, sex, death and politics in this novel. There are certain books that seem destined to be markers for periods early in one's life. There are places where The Catcher in the Rye works perfectly, and later years, when it just doesn't resonate as well. The same is true with Infinite Jest and Siddartha. I'm not saying these are youthful books, or books that are simple, but they seem destined to hit hard and survey a certain plasticity-of-mind between 16 and 30. ULoB is one of those books. It probably needs to be read somewhere after one loses their virginity, but before they start contributing to their retirement plan consistently. One glaring weaknesses in this novel, for me at least, was Kundera's tendency to turn his major characters into philosophical props. It was when Kundera waxed directly philosophical about kitsch or kindness that the novel resonated the strongest for me.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Diana Polansky

    "Making love with a woman and sleeping with a woman are two separate passions, not merely different but opposite. Love does not make itself felt in the desire for copulation (a desire that extends to an infinite number of women) but in the desire for shared sleep (a desire limited to one woman)." A philosophical window into love, passion, jealousy, and duty--set during the Russian invasion of the Czechoslovakia. When you read this, you will re-evaluate your relationships--past and present--and wo "Making love with a woman and sleeping with a woman are two separate passions, not merely different but opposite. Love does not make itself felt in the desire for copulation (a desire that extends to an infinite number of women) but in the desire for shared sleep (a desire limited to one woman)." A philosophical window into love, passion, jealousy, and duty--set during the Russian invasion of the Czechoslovakia. When you read this, you will re-evaluate your relationships--past and present--and wonder if the person was by chance sent to you "in a bulrush basket" or your other half according to Plato's "Symposium". In either case, would you be willing to alter your life and your future for this person? Strangely enough, I wondered why an ex-boyfriend suddenly decided he would like to see me last summer, a couple of months after we broke up. I remember he was reading this book at the time. And now, after having read this book, I wonder whether he had been sent to me by chance--in a foreign city--like Tereza was sent to Tomas through six alterable choices he had made...Or was he the person in "my" dream--my ideal that suddenly showed up in person, thus inspiring one of the weirdest relationships I've ever had (and was he thinking the same thing when he saw me for the first time...and then again months later)?

  29. 5 out of 5

    Matthew

    Really 3.5, but I gave it the benefit of the doubt and rounded up to 4. This book is a series of anecdotes with moments of deep and surreal introspection. There are several time jumps that throw off the linearity - sometimes causing confusion, but not too badly. All of these are part of one all encompassing story. Basically a story of sexuality and the cold war in Czechoslovokia. The beginning two sections were a little hard for me to get into, but after that I either got used to the writing or th Really 3.5, but I gave it the benefit of the doubt and rounded up to 4. This book is a series of anecdotes with moments of deep and surreal introspection. There are several time jumps that throw off the linearity - sometimes causing confusion, but not too badly. All of these are part of one all encompassing story. Basically a story of sexuality and the cold war in Czechoslovokia. The beginning two sections were a little hard for me to get into, but after that I either got used to the writing or the story changed. I had kind of settled into thinking that I wouldn't end up liking it, but that definitely changed as I kept reading. I don't think I can say that overall this book blew me away, but it is a very interesting story about life and relationships affected by the political climate in Eastern Europe post WWII, and I am glad that I read it.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Duane

    This is not your everyday run of the mill novel. Not everyone is going to like it. It's enigmatic, provocative, philosophical, and somewhat confusing at times. It's a little romantic, a little historical, a little political, and all that makes it sound unappealing, but it's not. It's beautifully written, it's character driven, I mean really character driven. There are three main characters, Tomas, the surgeon turned window washer, Teresa, his shy and devoted wife, and Sabina, his mistress, the k This is not your everyday run of the mill novel. Not everyone is going to like it. It's enigmatic, provocative, philosophical, and somewhat confusing at times. It's a little romantic, a little historical, a little political, and all that makes it sound unappealing, but it's not. It's beautifully written, it's character driven, I mean really character driven. There are three main characters, Tomas, the surgeon turned window washer, Teresa, his shy and devoted wife, and Sabina, his mistress, the keeper of the bowler hat. Tomas is a cad. He has dozens of mistresses, Sabina being number 1 and his best friend. But he can separate this from his marriage and still love his wife, and he does. Teresa, she knows about the lovers, agonizes over it, but still loves Tomas. But it's all much more complicated than that. The novel is set in Prague and Zurich, mostly Prague, in the 1960's during the invasion of Czechoslovakia by the Soviet Union. This event is the straw that stirs the drink of the story. Like I said, it's complicated, there's a lot going on here, and it doesn't always flow as smooth as you would like. But it works, most critics agree on that. I give it 4 stars, based mostly on the strength of the characters.

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