“Unbearable Lightness of Being” by Milan Kundera


Music, History, Philosophy and Romance: this book has it all. The story unfolds through the historical phase of 1968 Prague Spring and subsequent Soviet occupation of Czechoslovakia. The story reflects on the impact of these developments on the life of a common man and could have only been a first hand account written by someone who had borne witness to the period. Of how the common man was haunted by the probing eyes of the secret police that might record his every move and conversation and then broadcast it over radio or publish it in newspapers. Of how a leading surgeon had to abstain from practicing his profession only because he refused to retract an opinion that he had expressed drawing a parallel between Oedipus complex and the guilt that should ideally weigh upon the communist leaders.

The story describes the complex relationship between Tomas, his wife Tereza, his mistress Sabina and others and also his dog Karenin (genesis: the book Anna Karenin). Tomas’ love for Tereza is born out of compassion metaphorically similar to the love for a child delivered to him in a bulrush basket. The narrative doesn’t follow a chronological order and stories of different characters intertwine, along with the intertwining of dream and reality, similar to motifs in a musical composition that keep reappearing in different keys. The story itself follows the pattern of Beethoven’s final String Quartet in F Major: Muss es sein? Es muss sein! Es muss sein! (Must it be? It must be! It must be!).

For me, besides the historical reference, the characters or the story fail to leave an impact. Definitely not one of my favorite books!! I prefer and would recommend “Life is Elsewhere” by Kundera.

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A dreamer. An intellectual, spoiled by the world of literature trying to find sanity through traveling and expression through Visual Art and writing! Hope you like my expressions on this blog!!

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8 comments on ““Unbearable Lightness of Being” by Milan Kundera
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    Nice honest review. This is a book people quote from and gush about all the time. I haven’t read it.

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