This has definitely been one of the books that has made me think the most, reason and rationalize on the subject of love and relationships. Milan Kundera is a genius and he shows his genius in the human mind and being through this book. I can compare it to When Nietzsche Wept in terms of being able to enter a simple, common like subject and bring out a whole philosophical discussion that will make you cave deep into your soul until you are sure that you have started to find what you are searching.
It is easy to see how it became a worldwide bestseller, loved by the critics and the public alike. There is a weightlessness that permeates you as you take in the many passages of straightforward philosophical and political speculation.
One of the main topics which is pretty much the center of this story is betrayal. There is a part in the book that Tereza looks herself in the mirror, trying to see her true inner being, wanting to perceive what is inside her soul and certifying herself that there is no resemblance whatsoever of her mother in her features. She then goes on to say to herself that Thomas, her husband, loves he soul and her soul alone. She feels it is her duty to stick with him despite knowing of his many affairs and lovers that he possesses because of all of them he has married her, he has slept each night with her, he has made her his wife and in doing so he loves her, he loves her soul. There is no way she can leave him. She then looks at her body in the mirror and hates her body. She despises it because it wasn't good enough to make Thomas want it and it alone. He needs to have other women bodies as well. Just hers isn't enough to satisfy him. And so being she comes to the conclusion that she loves her soul but hates her body.
The whole is full of these examples and parts of the book which just would reach out into my soul and make me want to just go in further and deeper. Everything about it is good. There is such a lightness to it that in the end you are caught asking "was this lightness good or bad? the feeling that I am left now, the thoughts that don't leave my head, what is their purpose?" I still haven't been able to answer all the many, many questions this book has got me asking. But now at least there exists the question so that is already a good start. No, it is a great start. And now I am off to try to answer them.
WIKIPEDIA ON "The Unbearable Lightness of Being":
The Unbearable Lightness of Being (1984), written by Milan Kundera, is a philosophical novel about two men, two women, a dog and their lives in the Prague Spring of the Czechoslovak Communist period in 1968. Although written in 1982, the novel was not published until two years later, in France. Original titles are Czech: Nesnesitelná lehkost bytí and French: l'Insoutenable légèreté de l'être.
The Unbearable Lightness of Being takes place mainly in Prague in the late 1960s and 1970s. It explores the artistic and intellectual life of Czech society during the Communist period, from the Prague Spring to the Soviet Union’s August 1968 invasion and its aftermath. The main characters are Tomáš, a surgeon; his wife Tereza, a photographer anguished by her husband's infidelities; Tomáš’s lover Sabina, a free-spirited artist; Franz, a Swiss university professor and lover of Sabina; and Simon, Tomáš’ estranged son from an earlier marriage.
- Tomáš - A Czech surgeon and intellectual. Tomáš is a womanizer who lives for his work. He considers sex and love to be distinct entities: he copulates with many women but loves only his wife, Tereza. He sees no contradiction between these two positions. He explains womanizing as an imperative to explore female idiosyncrasies only expressed during sex. At first he views his wife as a burden whom he is obligated to take care of. After the Russian invasion, they escape to Zurich where he starts womanizing again. Tereza, homesick, returns to Prague with the dog. He quickly realizes he wants to be with her and follows her home. He has to deal with the consequences of a letter to the editor in which he metaphorically likened the Czech Communists to Oedipus. Eventually fed up with life in Prague under the communist regime, he moves to the country with Tereza. He abandons his twin obsessions of work and womanizing and discovers true happiness with Tereza. His epitaph, written by his Christian son, is He Wanted the Kingdom of God on Earth.
- Tereza - Young wife of Tomáš. A gentle, intellectual photographer, she delves into dangerous and dissident photojournalism during the Soviet occupation of Prague. Tereza does not condemn Tomáš for his infidelities, instead characterizing herself as a weaker person. Tereza is mostly defined by her view of the body as disgusting and shameful, due to her mother's embrace of the body's grotesque functions. Throughout the book she fears simply being another body in Tomáš's array of women. Once Tomáš and Tereza move to the countryside she devotes herself to raising cattle and reading. During this time she becomes fond of animals, reaching the conclusion that they were the last link to the paradiseabandoned by Adam and Eve, and becomes alienated from other people.
- Sabina - Tomáš' mistress and closest friend. Sabina lives her life as an extreme example of lightness, taking profound satisfaction in the act of betrayal. She declares war on kitschand struggles against the constraints imposed by her puritan ancestry and the Communist party. This struggle is shown through her paintings. She occasionally expresses excitement at humiliation, shown through the use of her grandfather's bowler hat, a symbol that is born during one sexual encounter with Tomáš, before it eventually changes meaning and becomes a relic of the past. Later in the novel she begins to correspond with Simon while living under the roof of some older Americans who admire her artistic skill. She expresses her desire to be cremated and thrown to the winds after death - a last symbol of eternal lightness.
- Franz - Sabina's lover and a Geneva professor and idealist. Franz falls in love with Sabina whom he considers a liberal and romantically tragic Czech dissident. Sabina considers both of those identities kitsch. He is a kind and compassionate man. As one of the novel's dreamers, he bases his actions on loyalty to the memories of his mother and of Sabina. His life revolves completely around books and academia eventually to the extent that he seeks lightness and ecstasy by participating in marches and protests, the last of which is a march inThailand to the Cambodian border. In Bangkok after the march, he is mortally wounded during a mugging. Ironically, he always sought to escape his wife Marie-Claude's kitsch, but dies in her presence, allowing Marie-Claude to claim he always loved her. The inscription on his grave was: "A return after long wanderings."
- Karenin - The dog of Tomáš and Tereza. Although physically a female, the name given always alludes to masculinity, and is a reference to Anna's husband in Anna Karenina. Karenin displays extreme dislike of change. Once moved to the country, Karenin becomes more content as he is able to enjoy more attention from his owners. He also quickly befriends a pig named Mefisto. During this time Tomáš discovers that Karenin has cancer and even after removing a tumor it is clear that Karenin is going to die. On his deathbed he unites Tereza and Tomáš through his "smile" at their attempts to improve his health. Tereza invents an inscription for his grave: "Here lies Karenin. He gave birth to two rolls and a bee," a reference to a recent dream.
The Unbearable Lightness of Being (1984) was not published in the original Czech until 1985, as Czech: Nesnesitelná lehkost bytí, by the exile publishing house 68 Publishers (Toronto,Canada). The second Czech edition was published in October 2006, in Brno (Czech Republic), some eighteen years after the Velvet Revolution, because Kundera did not approve it earlier. The first English translation by Michael Henry Heim was published in hardback in 1984 by Harper & Row in the US and Faber and Faber in the UK and in paperback in 1985.[1
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