THE UNBEARABLE LIGHTNESS OF BEING/Milan Kundera

Identity is the very first Milan Kundera book I’ve read and though I vehemently disliked it and declared that I won’t be reading any more Kundera books, I did not make good on my declaration. It’s because the reviews I’ve read about The Unbearable Lightness of Being has gotten me so intrigued and the premise is more interesting than Identity.

The blurb at the back of the book (which I got as a gift from Tricia of In Lesbians With Books) says:

A young woman is in love with a successful surgeon, a man torn between his love for her and his incorrigible womanizing. His mistress, a free-spirited artist, lives her life as a series of betrayals–while her other lover, earnest, faithful, and good, stands to lose everything because of his noble qualities. In a world where lives are shaped by irrevocable choices and fortuitous events, and everything occurs but once, existence seems to lose its substance, its weight. Hence we feel “the unbearable lightness of being.”

A major achievement from one of the world’s truly great writers, Milan Kundera’s magnificent novel of passion and politics, infidelity and ideas, encompasses the extremes of comedy and tragedy, illuminating all aspects of human existence.

Let me say that I am not a lover of philosophical books, even if it is in fiction form. I don’t know if this just affirms my ignorance and dense-ness, if some might want to think of me that because I don’t dig books like this, but the foremost reason why I read is because I want to be entertained. I read for leisure and pleasure so I am driven more by fast-paced stories rather than mind-boggling ideas and philosophies. This is why when I am confronted with books by authors such as Milan Kundera and Paulo Coelho (sorry to the fans) I feel that reading becomes an errand that I should finish as soon as possible whether I enjoy doing it or not rather than it being a leisurely activity.

With The Unbearable Lightness of Being, my reading experience was laborious, though I must say that I enjoyed it more than I enjoyed reading Identity. In Identity, I wanted to scream with frustration at the pathetic insecurities of the main character. In  The Unbearable Lightness of Being, the main character, Tomas, is likewise complicated. However, Tomas’s struggle between his womanizing and his great love for Tereza is a matter I find worth following, more so that the backdrop is during the Russian invasion of the Czechoslovakian nation. The discourses on communism are interesting as well and enriched what little knowledge I have on European history. However, seeing that this book is originally written in Czech, I can’t help thinking that maybe the original writing isn’t as fluid and intellectual as what translator Michael Henry Heim did in this translated version, but of course, fans of Milan Kundera, especially those who religiously follow this author’s works, would certainly disagree.

I would like to praise Mr. Heim for a superb job he made in translating this book, his writing is ineffable, if I may say, maybe he should try writing his own book someday. Consider this:

“From this jumble of ideas came a sacrilegious thought that Tereza could not shake off: the love that tied her to Karenin was better than the love between her and Tomas. Better, not bigger. Tereza did not wish to fault either Tomas or herself; she did not wish to claim that they could love each other more. Her feeling was rather that, given the nature of the human couple, the love of man and woman is a priori inferior to that which can exist (at least in the best instances) in the love between man and dog, that oddity of human history probably unplanned by the Creator.”        ( p. 297)

Still, I want to thank Tricia for giving me her copy because a book gift is always wonderful. (Did you like this book too? I want to know.)

3 stars.

13/50 2012 Goodreads Reading Goal.

2 thoughts on “THE UNBEARABLE LIGHTNESS OF BEING/Milan Kundera

  1. Oh, I super love this book, mainly because it’s so tragic, and there’s a sense of despair on every page. I also read mostly to entertain myself, it’s just that I get really revved up with such books. At least it’s not a one star. 😀

    1. I don’t entirely hate it either, the reason for the 3 stars. It’s just that books like these aren’t my cup of tea (or coffee, as I always say). 🙂

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