The Unbearable Lightness of Being: A Novel

The Unbearable Lightness of Being: A Novel

by Milan Kundera

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Overview

A young woman in love with a man torn between his love for her and his incorrigible womanizing; one of his mistresses and her humbly faithful lover—these are the two couples whose story is told in this masterful novel. In a world in which lives are shaped by irrevocable choices and by fortuitous events, a world in which everything occurs but once, existence seems to lose its substance, its weight. Hence, we feel "the unbearable lightness of being" not only as the consequence of our pristine actions but also in the public sphere, and the two inevitably intertwine.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780060932138
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 07/05/2005
Series: Harper Perennial
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 194,758
Product dimensions: 5.31(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.72(d)

About the Author

Milan Kundera is the author of the novels The Joke, Farewell Waltz, Life Is Elsewhere, The Book of Laughter and Forgetting, The Unbearable Lightness of Being, and Immortality, and the short-story collection Laughable Loves—all originally written in Czech. His most recent novels Slowness, Identity, and Ignorance, as well as his nonfiction works The Art of the Novel, Testaments Betrayed, The Curtain, and Encounter, were originally written in French.

Hometown:

Paris, France

Date of Birth:

April 1, 1929

Place of Birth:

Brno, Czechoslovakia

Education:

Undergraduate degree in philosophy, Charles University, Prague, 1952

Read an Excerpt

The Unbearable Lightness of Being
A Novel

One

The idea of the 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?

Putting it negatively, the myth of eternal return states that a life which disappears once and for all, which does not return, is like a shadow, without weight, dead in advance, and whether it was horrible, beautiful, or sublime, its horror, sublimity, and beauty mean nothing. We need take no more note of it than of a war between two African kingdoms in the fourteenth century, a war that altered nothing in the destiny of the world, even if a hundred thousand blacks perished in excruciating torment.

Will the war between two African kingdoms in the fourteenth century itself be altered if it recurs again and again, in eternal return?

It will: it will become a solid mass, permanently protuberant, its inanity irreparable.

If the French Revolution were to recur eternally, French historians would be less proud of Robespierre. But because they .deal with something that will not return, the bloody years of the Revolution have turned into mere words, theories, and discussions, have become lighter than feathers, frightening no one. There is an infinite difference between a Robespierre who occurs only once in history and a Robespierre who eternally returns, chopping off French heads.

Let us therefore agree that the idea of eternal return implies a perspective from which things appear other than as we know them: theyappear without the mitigating circumstance of their transitory nature. This mitigating circumstance prevents us from coming to a verdict. For how can we condemn something that is ephemeral, in transit? In the sunset of dissolution, everything is illuminated by the aura of nostalgia, even the guillotine.

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 reconciliation with Hitler reveals the profound moral perversity of a world that rests essentially on the nonexistence of return, for in this world everything is pardoned in advance and therefore everything cynically permitted.


Two

If every second of our lives recurs an infinite number of times, we are nailed to eternity as Jesus Christ was nailed to the cross. It is a terrifying prospect. In the world of eternal return the weight of unbearable responsibility lies heavy on every move we make. That is why Nietzsche called the idea of eternal return the heaviest of burdens (das schwerste Gewicht).

If eternal return is the heaviest of burdens, then our lives can stand out against it in all their splendid lightness.

But is heaviness truly deplorable and lightness splendid?

The heaviest of burdens crushes us, we sink beneath it, it pins us to the ground. But in the love poetry of every age, the woman longs to be weighed down by the man's body. The heaviest of burdens is therefore simultaneously an image of life's most intense fulfillment. The heavier the burden, the closer our lives come to the earth, the more real and truthful they become.

Conversely, the absolute absence of a burden causes man to be lighter than air, to soar into the heights, take leave of the earth and his earthly being, and become only half real, his movements as free as they are insignificant.

What then shall we choose? Weight or lightness?

Parmenides posed this very question in the sixth century before Christ. He saw the world divided into pairs of opposites: light/darkness, fineness/coarseness, warmth/cold, being/nonbeing. One half of the opposition he called positive (light, fineness, warmth, being), the other negative. We might find this division into positive and negative poles childishly simple except for one difficulty: which one is positive, weight or lightness?

Parmenides responded: lightness is positive, weight negative.

Was he correct or not? That is the question. The only certainty is: the lightness/weight opposition is the most mysterious, most ambiguous of all.


Three

I have been thinking about Tomas for many years. But only in the light of these reflections did I see him clearly. I saw him standing at the window of his flat and looking across the courtyard at the opposite walls, not knowing what to do.

He had first met Tereza about three weeks earlier in a small Czech town. They had spent scarcely an hour together. She had accompanied him to the station and waited with him until he boarded the train. Ten days later she paid him a visit. They made love the day she arrived. That night she came down with a fever and stayed a whole week in his flat with the flu.

He had come to feel an inexplicable love for this all but complete stranger; she seemed a child to him, a child someone had put in a bulrush basket daubed with pitch and sent downstream for Tomas to fetch at the riverbank of his bed.

She stayed with him a week, until she was well again, then went back to her town, some hundred and twenty-five miles from Prague. And then came the time I have just spoken of and see as the key to his life: Standing by the window, he looked out over the courtyard at the walls opposite him and deliberated.

Should he call her back to Prague for good? He feared the responsibility. If he invited her to come, then come she would, and offer him up her life.

Or should he refrain from approaching her? Then she would remain a waitress in a hotel restaurant of a provincial town and he would never see her again.

The Unbearable Lightness of Being
A Novel
. Copyright © by Milan Kundera. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Table of Contents

Part One Lightness and Weight 1(36)
Part Two Soul and Body 37(42)
Part Three Words Misunderstood 79(50)
Part Four Soul and Body 129(44)
Part Five Lightness and Weight 173(68)
Part Six The Grand March 241(38)
Part Seven Karenin's Smile 279

Reading Group Guide

Plot Summary
Tereza and Tomas, Tomas and Sabina, Sabina and Franz, Franz and Marie-Claude--four people, four relationships. Milan Kundera's masterful novel, The Unbearable Lightness of Being (1984), tells the interlocking stories of these four relationships, with a primary focus on Tomas, a man torn between his love for Tereza, his wife, and his incorrigible "erotic adventures," particularly his long-time affair with the internationally noted painter, Sabina. The world of Kundera's novel is one in which lives are shaped by irrevocable choices and fortuitous events. It is a world in which, because everything occurs only once and then disappears into the past, existence seems to lose its substance and weight. Coping with both the consequences of their own actions and desires and the intruding demands of society and the state, Kundera's characters struggle to construct lives of individual value and lasting meaning.

A novel of ideas, a provocative look at the ways in which history impinges on individual lives, and a meditation on personal identity, The Unbearable Lightness of Being examines the imperfect possibilities of adult love and the ways in which free choice and necessity shape our lives. "What then shall we choose?" Kundera asks at the beginning of his novel. "Weight or lightness?" This international bestseller is his attempt to answer that question. And the answer is hinted at in the novel's final scene, in which Tomas and Tereza find themselves in a small country hotel after a rare evening of dancing. When Tomas turns on the light in their room, "a large nocturnal butterfly" rises from the bedside lamp andcircles the room in which they are alone with their happiness and their sadness.

Discussion Topics
1. What kinds of being carry the attribute of lightness? How is the "lightness of being" of the novel's title presented? In what ways is it "unbearable"? What is the difference between "the sweet lightness of being" that Tomas enjoys in Zurich, after Tereza's return to Prague, and "the unbearable lightness of being"?

2. How does Nietzsche's myth of eternal return, with which Kundera opens his book, function in the novel? What does Kundera mean when he refers to "the profound moral perversity of a world that rests essentially on the nonexistence of return"? How does what he calls the unbearable burden of eternal return contrast with the "splendid lightness" of our daily lives?

3. How would you describe the three central relationships of the novel--Tereza and Tomas, Tomas and Sabina, Sabina and Franz? How do they embody Kundera's primary concerns and themes?

4. In what ways does Kundera explore what he calls "the irreconcilable duality of body and soul, that fundamental human experience." In what ways does he show this duality to be fundamental?

5. Both Tereza and Tomas repeatedly think of the series of fortuitous events that brought them together. What is the rule of fortuity, chance, and coincidence in their lives and the lives of others? What does Kundera mean when he writes, "Chance and chance alone has a message for us"?

6. In what ways may Sabina's description of her dual-level paintings--"On the surface, an intelligible lie; underneath, the unintelligible truth"--apply to every aspect of the characters' lives and relationships?

7. What meanings and importance do each of the main characters ascribe to fidelity and betrayal? In what instances, for each character, do fidelity and betrayal have either positive or negative qualities?

8. Kundera insists that "the criminal regimes were made not by criminals but by enthusiasts convinced they had discovered the only road to paradise." What visions or versions of paradise are presented in the novel? By whom? How does each vision/version of paradise affect the lives of its enthusiasts and the lives of others?

About the Author

"Kundera has raised the novel of ideas to a new level of dreamlike lyricism and emotional intensity."
--Newsweek
The Franco-Czech novelist Milan Kundera was born in Brno and has lived in France, his second homeland, for more than twenty years. He is the author of the novels The Joke, Life Is Elsewhere, Farewell Waltz, The Book of Laughter and Forgetting, The Unbearable Lightness of Being, and Immortality, and the short story collection Laughable Loves--all originally in Czech. His most recent novels, Slowness and Identity, as well as his nonfiction works, The Art of the Novel and Testaments Betrayed, were originally written in French.

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Unbearable Lightness of Being 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 117 reviews.
tamesthetic More than 1 year ago
Please read this book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
It was one of those books that you wanted to read over and over again so that you could quote it to everybody you talked to.
mojomomma on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Difficult to characterize or to write a simple plot-line, but this is the story of a couple who live and meet in Czech. at the time of the 1968 Russian invasion. He's a surgeon who falls afoul of the Communist leaders and is driven from his job. He loves his wife, but is constantly unfaithful to her.
kjdavis87 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I was forced to read this book for a world literature course and surprisingly I liked it. It wasn't very hard to read and it had some R-rated parts that did keep my interest lol.
LisaMaria_C on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The story begins with philosophical musings on the theme from which the book takes its title: we have only one life, so we leave no impact, no weight. This is the "unbearable lightness of being"--life is meaningless and how we act has no consequences. But there are other ways in the novel that "lightness" is also opposed to "weight:" Sexual pleasure, freedom and choice versus love, responsibility, commitment. That thread intertwines with the impact on the characters of life in the "Prague Spring" of Czechoslovakia in 1968 and the aftermath of the ensuing Soviet crackdown: of heavy oppression of the totalitarian state.Tomas, the story's main protagonist, seems to be trying to live "light" in terms of personal relationships--without repetition as an unabashed libertine. He had been living by the rule of threes: if he sees a woman three times in close succession he breaks things off. Or he can have a long-term "erotic friendship," but then can only see a woman once every three weeks. But then Tereza comes into his life--and he does marry her, loves her--but can't stand the "weight" of committing fully and solely to her, which causes in her a corresponding heaviness she can't bear.The thing is Tomas only does find happiness when he acts as if his choices have weight--for him and Tereza if no one else. Tereza for her part has to live "lighter"--become more her own person, lay down psychological baggage, to find her own equilibrium. Other characters in the novel are variations on this theme of a balance between lightness and weight.It's an unusual book. The philosophical and political themes and authorial digressions intertwine intimately with the characters and plot so that at times the characters seem mere illustrations of those principles, except I did care bout Tomas and Tereza--they're more than abstractions. (And hey, their dog, Karenin, is an important character!) But there's also wit and humor to be found, often with a satiric edge, and the style, even in translation (or because of the translation), is luminous. The novel feels light, lyrical despite the heaviness of theme and non-linear narrative. I first read this novel decades ago. What I remembered of it wasn't the philosophical underpinnings though but the emotional impact the book had on me--sharp and poignant and one of those few books that have moved me to tears.
cestovatela on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A readable, original work with a lot to say about sex, kitsch, relationships and living under Communism. Mentally, I divide the story into two parts. The first is the story of a deeply in love and deeply troubled couple. The man is simply unable to remain faithful and his girlfriend struggles to find a way to cope. The second part is the story of the Russian invasion of Czechoslovakia after a local attempt to liberalize the Czech government. What I like about this book is that it communicates about so many different things on so many different levels -- not only the small matters of sex, love and kitsch but also the big picture of social change, violence, oppression and repression. This is a complex work that I'd probably need to re-read several times to fully understand, but even a superficial reading leaves a deep impression. Highly recommended.
M.Campanella on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I am not so sure that this book is about as many things as some would like to claim. It struck me as being very thin.First long ranting point, communism.It would, if truly present, be a form of the setting. But it is not there as Paris is there in a Hemmingway novel, as the Sahara is there in Bowels. It seems more like a mechanism; something used to move the plot then discarded.Why? Life, every day life, for the Prague characters is thinly described, before and after Communism moves in, that we simply have only the vaguest notion of the change. We do know that Tomas is a doctor, and it is hinted that he is well off. But just how well off is completely up to the reader¿s best guess. Well off enough to maintain himself, Tereza, and an ex-wife somewhere. But is he, all that considered, barely making ends meet or still managing to roll in the dough? Various mistresses alluded to, and never do we find out the nature of those relationships, with the exception of a few. And to what extent, before communism kicks in, is money a factor in these dealings. If for no other reason than the fact that when Tomas is no longer a doctor his Mistresses change we become of the notion that indeed money was a factor in those affairs.If you know nothing about communism, you probably think that his losing his job as a doctor due to what he wrote has something at all to do with communism. If that is the case, you know nothing about communism. And you are likely educated in the American propagandistic version. What happened to Tomas can be given many labels: totalitarianism, fascism, orwellianism. Fine. But it is not a characteristic of communism. (Monumental aside: Flawed educations hammered into students the following: ¿Under communism doctors were only paid 20$ a week.¿ And it is true. I met a Pole and asked him about. He said that indeed it was true, but you need to consider that that 20$ was absolute profit, considering the state [attempted to] provide everything for that individual needed. That 20$ was pocket money. Same Pole went on to say that a four course meal for two at a very nice restaurant went for about 1$ total.)But I can oblige the point. While it was not communism, it was a reality for people living in Prague, and likely a scary one at that. Fine, but without life well described when they had capitalism, we have nothing to compare it to when the red menace goose steps in. And the description does not get much better after the transition. So we have no real way of knowing what this communist life was truly like. People who want to beat the point about him having lost his job should consider that it is, at least as the novel is concerned, a somewhat isolated incident. If another doctor was richly described, who either did not run his trap about the government or apologized for it, then we would have a way of illustrating life under that form. But that doesn¿t happen. Instead we have this notion of proud Tomas standing up for his beliefs, because it was at the end of the day only a misunderstanding. Point accepted, but again, that is not Communism (last time I harp about, I swear), and it could pretty much happen anywhere a government gets too much power. It does make for an interesting comparison with how Tomas lives with Teresa. But it is only interesting in passing. And then you move on.The book struggles structurally. Teresa is at some point hassled by someone at her job as a waitress. The person nominates the fact that her husband is a lowly window-washer. Except we had not learned that yet ¿ it comes a little later in the book. So we write the guy off as a drunk. Out of the blue, Teresa suspects the guy of being some kind of informant, damned if we can figure why. When, later, Tomas is a window-washer, it makes more sense. But a lot of information is delivered that poorly in the book. The book opens more or less about Tomas. Then it moves on to Teresa. This was indeed interesting. It wa
ilanadm on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I expected more psychological insight from this novel, too much seems to be explained away by the political climate of that era/country, a common recourse of Eastern European literature
sanddancer on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I rarely re-read books but I've read this one twice and I will definitely re-read it again. Kundera easily mixes philosophical ideas with a story of a relationship. It is about life, politics, love and infidelity. It is profound, but still easily readable. A beautiful book.
Richak on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Philosophy, romance, music and history: this book has it all but somehow it fails to leave a mark on me except for the fleeting references to historical events of Prague Spring of 1968 and consequent Russian occupation of Czechoslovakia.
jayne_charles on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
There is a story in here about Czechoslovakia under Communism, which for me at least was a first. The downward spiral of the character Tomas's career under Soviet rule was well drawn, but plot-wise the story was quite difficult to follow. There was always the feeling that there was some deeper meaning I was failing to appreciate. It was oddly erotic in places, and this is perhaps the most abiding memory after finishing it.
Luli81 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A novel that express what human condition really is. It hits the point, it makes you reflect, it makes you see how selfish we all are.
mausergem on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is a story of a doctor, a painter, a waitress and a professor. It deals with their inter twined lives. The novel deals with communism and democracy. There is jealousy, lust, anger, denial and love. This is not a novel according to me. It is just the author¿s random and beautiful thoughts. The author comments that all his characters are him but they just have crossed the borders that he dare not cross.
St.CroixSue on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A novel of passion, politics and philosphy by a brilliant Czech writer. SRH
Peleiades44 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A more fitting title would be "The Unbearable Boringness of Kundera" because that's what I found this book to be. I'll say, I really tried to like this book, heck I actually liked the first 20-30 pages, but by the time I got about halfway through I started dreading picking up this book so much that after several attempts, I decided to throw in the towel. I hate not finishing books, but this is one of those books. "Unbearable" feels like a book written by a 65 year old man who wished he had a more interesting sex life for other 65 year old men who also wish they had more interesting sex lives. The characters and plot are so uninteresting that I'd forget completely what I just read by the next day, then I'd have to go back and REREAD because nothing in this book is thrilling enough to stick with you. I do think I understand what Kundera was trying to say ... lightness vs. weight, body vs. soul, yaddayadda ... but wow he could've gone about it differently. Someone likened this book to "The Stranger," but Kundera is no Camus. Camus' books are actually interesting and nowhere near as dreary as "Unbearable." I have read some pretty dry books in my day, but this one takes the cake.
TheLostEntwife on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
About half-way through this book I had an abrupt change of opinion. When I began the book I was captivated by the language, the ideas, the ways my imagination was being sparked (and no, I'm not talking about the raunchy scenes - even though there were oh so many of them. ugh) and the gradual unfolding of the lives of the two couples involved in the story.But then I started to get depressed. And then even more depressed. Soon I dreaded picking up the book and I wondered how in the world I could have gone to loving the book to dreading it so much.I thought I understood what Milan Kundera was saying (even though I readily admit to much of it just going right over my head), but I think I got an idea. I understand what he's talking about when mentioning the "Unbearable Lightness of Being" - or at least I think I do. What I don't understand is why there couldn't be just one character we could fall in love with, just one! Instead, I felt as if he approached this in a clinical, hands-off manner as if saying, "Sure I thought them up, but now they are your responsibility!".I've never read a book that's flipped me from one side to the other like this, so it's a new experience for me and one I'm hoping to not have happen again anytime soon. I haven't given up on Kundera though and do plan to check his other works out. I just hope I will end them able to at least smile instead of feeling as if I should tear up the book and cry crocodile tears on its corpse.
salerie on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Philosophical, carnal, truth-telling and transcendent.
sturlington on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is the second of Kundera¿s books that I have read ¿ the first being Immortality ¿ and both times I have been put off by the meandering nature of the story and the way that it becomes unclear whether events are truly happening or whether they are metaphors for something else. The books seem so dense, as if you are wading through thigh-high, thick liquid when you read them, and yet nothing much seems to happen. Perhaps this is a European style of writing that does not appeal to me, or a Czech style, or perhaps it¿s just Kundera himself. No matter what it is, I can still appreciate the poetry of Kundera¿s language and the pertinent observations that come bubbling up in the course of the story, even if I cannot appreciate the story as a whole.
jtp146 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Really enjoyed the watching the main character develop throughout this book. Each character around him represents a different narrative that at some point influences his maturity and happiness. The author was really thoughtful to insist on a duality in each situation and emotion throughout the book.
stephxsu on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
THE UNBEARABLE LIGHTNESS OF BEING is not quite a novel, not quite a philosophical treatise, not quite political commentary. It has fictional characters and a ¿plot,¿ if you want to call it that¿but the plot is hardly the most important part of the book. It is chock full of interesting philosophical ideas. Perhaps the thing to say about THE UNBEARABLE LIGHTNESS OF BEING is that it is an incredible experience that cannot be fully understood and appreciated in just one go.Perhaps what astounded me most about this book was how nuanced the characters are. Like real human beings, no one is perfect: in fact, Tereza, Tomas, and the others are often aggravatingly flawed, to the point where you kind of want to throw down the book in frustration, or else reach into the story and single-handedly plunk them in psychotherapy.The real and frightful thing about such a reaction, however, is that, in certain ways, Tereza and Tomas are eerily canny reflections of ourselves, and what our pithy and ultimately futile internal struggles would look like at the hands of a literary genius. Tomas¿ perpetual womanizing and his guilt over his inability to make Tereza happy, Tereza¿s hopelessness over her own feelings of jealousy¿it reflects some of the ugliest parts of ourselves, the parts that we¿re afraid to see in literature, for fear that we may recognize them as being part of ourselves.It is because of this discomfort that Kundera creates in the relationship between reader and creation that I both admire and fear this book and Kundera¿s writings. I admire it because I see the possibilities for what I can do with my own thoughts and writings; I fear it because Kundera¿s thorough, everyone-yet-no-one portrayal of his characters could so easily be me or any one of us, despite evidence to the contrary (i.e. we are not perpetual womanizers or guilty jealous snakes). But Kundera¿s omniscient narration helps us understand the mentality of flawed characters, and if you apply that to real life, it¿s hard to not not think of things in black and white afterwards.There are things that I didn¿t like about this book: the political stuff (it¿s just not my thing), and the fact that Kundera often rejects typical literary conventions such as introductions and climaxes and denouements. I think, however, that the experience of reading THE UNBEARABLE LIGHTNESS OF BEING, the ideas about living and existing and worth that it contains, and the things it makes me think about the potential of writing, make everything worth it. I am already looking forward to the next time I can reread this, pencil in hand to mark the things I missed before.
flydodofly on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
with more than twenty years between two reads, I got that much more out of it this time around. life experience must have helped. I would not go as far as to say: if you are very young - do not read this book, but I would recommend re-reading it at some point.
MeditationesMartini on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book is basically an index of my self-loathing right now, so it's possible that this review isn't entirely objective. And I like the constant pedantic wordplay, which is endearing and not annoying, and he does manage to say some profound things about love. But what kind of plodder can't manage to say something profound about love? And the pomposity and misogyny are sort of . . . mutually repugnifying. The stuff about Karenin and treating animals right at the end touches the hears, but sooften you just get this grimy reptilian feeling, like you're reading something that was written on the toilet after five minutes of soul-searching. Still, it probably got Kundera laid. Or at least, I'm sure it got someone laid. Boo everybody. Not excluding me.
buffalogirl on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book was good enough, but is was not a compelling read. Many of the points made were thought provoking, but I did not rush home to read it, and it took me quite a whiile to get through it for being such a small book.
LynnB on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Incredibly interesting to read. This book tells the story of Tomas and Tereza, Tomas's lover, Sabina and her lover Franz. It also tells the story of political repression. It opens with a discussion of Nietzche's theories (I almost gave up after a few pages); tells a beautifully written story of love, and the author inserts himself and speaks directly to the reader at times. All this makes for a complex book, but one that nonetheless flows well and provides both dramatic stories and historical and philosophical context.
queenscheherazade on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Set in communist run Czechoslovakia spanning the 1960s to 1980s, while speaking to the contemporary ear, this is the story of four people in four interconnected relationships. Their world is caught between the demands of society and state, and love and politics. A world where existence loses its substance and weight within "the profound moral perversity of a world that rests essentially on the nonexistence of return". Kundera¿s themes of repetition and weight are quite deep, along with his unusual way of unfolding the positives and negatives of fidelity and betrayal. Read this book more than once.