The Unbearable Lightness of Being: A Novel

Paperback | May 3, 1999

byMilan Kundera

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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.

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From Our Editors

Both a best-selling novel and a highly acclaimed film starring Daniel Day-Lewis, French novelist extraordinaire Milan Kundera’s best-known work, The Unbearable Lightness of Being, is a contemporary classic in 20th century fiction. This often bleak, very beautiful and intensely poetic tale explores the trappings of modern life and the u...

From the Publisher

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 occu...

The Franco-Czech novelist Milan Kundera was born in Brno and has lived in France, his second homeland, since 1975. 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 origin...

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:320 pages, 8 × 5.31 × 0.72 inPublished:May 3, 1999Publisher:HarperCollinsLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0060932139

ISBN - 13:9780060932138

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Customer Reviews of The Unbearable Lightness of Being: A Novel

Reviews

Rated 4 out of 5 by from Masterful Tour De Force Communist tyranny is omnipresent in this literary masterpiece, which is set primarily in Czechoslovakia and spans several years, but revolves around the brutal 1968 Soviet (Russian) response to Prague Spring. Its characters are victims of a totalitarian system that brooks no dissent. As cases in point, Tomas, a skilled surgeon, writes a letter to the editor criticizing communism and is eventually demoted to washing windows. His girlfriend and eventual wife, Tereza, an accomplished photographer, takes pictures of Russian atrocities during the 1968 invasion and finds herself tending bar in a hotel. One of her co-workers, employed as an accountant, was once a professor of theology, while another, who mans the front desk, is a former ambassador. Sabina, an artist and mistress of Tomas (as well as Franz) is on to something when she dismisses herself and others in some hypothetical utopia as "smiling idiots". Understanding full well that her creativity and individualism would be compromised under communism, she emigrates, initially to Switzerland. But just as communism is flawed, so too are Kundera's characters. And herein lies communism's conundrum: a mass of imperfect souls cannot hope to produce a heaven on earth. Examples abound. Tomas seems to love Tereza---------- so much so that he gives up his practice in Zurich to follow her back to Prague. Yet he remains a slave to his libido. He also has an ex-wife and son, with whom he has minimal contact. For her part, Tereza seems, ultimately, to lack the will to resist an unfaithful man, appearing unwilling (or unable ?) to seriously explore romantic alternatives. Franz, a Geneva based, albeit cosmopolitan, academic laments never having lived his ideals. He eventually bails from a twenty-three year marriage (with its security and predictability) to pursue a hoped for life with Sabina, then embarks on an ill-advised mission to Cambodia. Finally, communism's totalitarian conformity is anathema to Sabina, a free spirit who values her independence above all else. But just as so many are slaves to communism, she is perhaps so much a slave to her independence that even love is subordinated to it. In summing up, THE UNBEARABLE LIGHTNESS OF BEING is a sad, even tragic story: a novel of transience, lives unfulfilled, opportunities missed, loss, and, ultimately, death. It is also a remarkable tour de force. Kundera does a splendid job not only emphasizing the imperfections of communism, but also delineating the frailties of his wonderfully developed characters. This is a highly recommended novel worthy of any university literature course emphasizing the post-World War II novel.
Date published: 2015-12-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Truly Insightful This book is a definite page turner. Milan is an intresting writter with a unique style that is quite his own. Very insightful and entertaining, the lines he draws between events and deceptions are quite entertaining and provoke thoughts into the communism, love and the weight of being.
Date published: 2008-01-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Purposeful Ambiguity In the novel The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Milan Kundera takes great pains to mask what is essentially, an indictment against lightness. Through a process of purposeful ambiguity, Kundera sets up three important and interrelated themes in the novel. These three themes need to be examined at some length in order to understand Kundera's complexity and unravel his indictment against lightness. Firstly, there is the psychological construct of the eternal return as developed by Friedrich Nietzsche. Secondly, through the love story of Tomas, Tereza and Sabina, Kundera plays out his indictment against lightness. Within this braid of interwoven relations, Kundera places the duality of lightness and weight side by side, seemingly not endorsing one or the other. Thirdly, Kundera plays out his indictment against lightness in the public arena, placing the personal stories within the historical framework of the Russian invasion of Czechoslovakia in August of 1968; through this mechanism history becomes another story within a story. Are events forgiven in advance because they happen only once? Read it and find out.
Date published: 2001-01-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The Unbearable Lightness of Being Kundera's novel is an amazing piece of literary work that will keep readers entertained and captivated from beginning to end. A novel about life and its trials; it deals with love, longing, loathing, and everything in between. In drawing parallels between the metaphysical and all that is tangible, Kundera attempts to enlighten the reader, by giving us the opportunity to understand how life is "unbearable lightness of being."
Date published: 2000-06-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from the unbearable brilliance of literature! Milan Kundera's "Unbearable Lightess of Being" is a book of love, emotion, fate and making choices that change your life. The book is so smoothly written that it leaves the reader with a lot to think about and at the same time makes it clear what the author is trying to tell us. Set on the backdrop of communism in Czechoslovakia during 1960s, it intertwines politics with love and the standards of fitting into society. Written in a very original style, (the author gives his own views on life in the beginning of many chapters), it is a book I just could not tear myself away from!!!!
Date published: 2000-06-23
Rated 4 out of 5 by from unbearably good Kundera's novel is as complex as life. Like in life, you will find there things to admire and loathe, things to cringe from and things to cry about. And when you are done, your life too will be unbearably light.
Date published: 1999-10-05

Extra Content

From Our Editors

Both a best-selling novel and a highly acclaimed film starring Daniel Day-Lewis, French novelist extraordinaire Milan Kundera’s best-known work, The Unbearable Lightness of Being, is a contemporary classic in 20th century fiction. This often bleak, very beautiful and intensely poetic tale explores the trappings of modern life and the universal search for love, in all its soulless, yet eternally hopeful sadness. Kundera is also the respected author of The Book of Laughter and Forgetting and Slowness.

Editorial Reviews

"Mr. Kundera's novel composed in the spirit of the late quartets of Beethoven is concerned with the opposing elements of freedom and necessity among a quartet of entangled lovers."(The New Yorker)