Monday, 19 January 2015

The Unbearable Lightness of Being, by Milan Kundera

3 stars

When I first opened the pages of The Unbearable Lightness of Being and saw a philosophical consideration of Nietzsche’s theory of eternal return waiting to greet me, my heart sank, thinking I was about to wade through 300 pages of the same.

Thankfully, this turned out not to be entirely the case.

Following the story of Tomas and Tereza – he a surgeon who can’t keep his dick out of other women (or his hair, which often smells of the female genitals with whom he’s indulged in a spot of extra-curricular rubbing) and she an occasional waitress/photographer tormented by the jealous dreams his infidelities inspire, set against a backdrop of the Prague Spring on 1968 and the subsequent invasion by the Soviet Union, Tomas’ state of being is light – the attachments he forms are fleeting and his consideration of others minimal (he’s even jettisoned a son because he couldn’t be arsed with custody arrangements), while Tereza’s is heavy, her insecurities and her love for Tomas a weighty burden.

There’s also another pair of lovers – Sabina and Franz – who sort of meander through this, connected by the fact that Sabina is one of Tomas’ more long-standing mistresses, but I found their sections almost disappeared behind the story of Tereza (the more interesting character in this, for me).

While this was very readable – I tore through this in a couple of sittings – with some wonderful passages and moments of insight, I found that for something dealing with quite big themes it all felt rather ethereal and fleeting and,  much like Tomas, I imagine I’ll soon be distracted by something new and shiny and forget this altogether.

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