Thanks everyone for joining in on this month’s pick, The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera. Now, right from the first pages, I knew this was going to be a “thinking” book. That means that you need to be totally aware when reading it and can’t be falling into an exam-induced slumber. Kundera’s language made me thankful that I was reading this on my Kindle and I could instantly look up words on the included dictionary. This book was written for intelligent, thoughtful people and was a nice departure from usual fluff, but perhaps not the wisest choice during exam season.
The title was also a little perplexing to me, but thankfully Kundera eloquently explains the meaning within the first pages:
“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.”
This book is chock-full of gorgeous quotations such as this, and again I was thankful for my Kindle and it’s highlight feature.
But what about the story? The book explores relationships between several characters: Tomas and his wife, Tereza, his mistress Sabina and Franz, who is also seeing Sabina. However, one of the many interesting things about this novel is the lack of any real story. Sure, Kundera takes us through their encounters with one another that shape their future, but the content is in his use of these characters to pose important, philosophical questions. Kundera also manages to do this in a totally non-judgmental way; he doesn’t judge Tomas for his inability to remain faithful, Tereza’s desperate neediness or Franz for leaving his wife in such an impulsive way. He simply provides a place to ponder what love means to you, which is what I really loved about this one!
Someone who wasn’t interested in exploring their own personal philosophy on love may see The Unbearable Lightness of Being as a pretentious work, but I really enjoyed it and the thoughtfulness it inspired in me.
And now, your thoughts. I’d love to know what you thought of this novel, what stuck with you or even your favorite quotes!
Don’t forget to leave your recommendation for May’s book club selection below!!