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Die unerträgliche Leichtigkeit des Seins :…

Die unerträgliche Leichtigkeit des Seins : Roman (original 1984; edition 1992)

by Milan Kundera, Susanna Roth (Translator)

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15,198None121 (4.04)1 / 258
Title:Die unerträgliche Leichtigkeit des Seins : Roman
Authors:Milan Kundera
Other authors:Susanna Roth (Translator)
Info:Frankfurt am Main : Fischer Taschenbuch-Verl.,1992. - 300 p., pbk.
Collections:Your library, Currently reading
Tags:love, czechoslovakia, prague, fiction

Work details

The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera (1984)

1001 (71) 1001 books (66) 20th century (174) classic (94) classics (62) communism (111) Czech (376) Czech fiction (55) Czech literature (261) Czech Republic (89) Czechoslovakia (148) existentialism (72) favorite (47) fiction (1,693) Kundera (72) literature (299) love (165) novel (350) own (71) philosophy (248) Prague (101) read (200) relationships (70) Roman (114) romance (52) sex (52) to-read (204) translated (50) translation (88) unread (88)
  1. 30
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  2. 00
    Sophie's Choice by William Styron (rretzler)
  3. 00
    Love by Angela Carter (Ludi_Ling)
    Ludi_Ling: Both treatments on the intricacies of love and romantic/sexual relationships. Kundera's is the more readable of the two, but the themes running through them are very similar.

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English (130)  Spanish (8)  French (5)  Dutch (5)  Portuguese (1)  Romanian (1)  Swedish (1)  German (1)  Hungarian (1)  Hebrew (1)  Catalan (1)  Finnish (1)  All languages (156)
Showing 1-5 of 130 (next | show all)
This book is on the 1001 Books challenge list, so I read it. Now, the story of Tomas & Tereza is the central story, with the satellite characters Sabina(one of Tomas' mistresses), & Franz(one of Sabina's other lovers) also having storylines of their own. This rather tangled web of love is interspersed with the author's own musings on philosophy as it pertains to himself & his characters. It gave the characters a bit more depth, but I could have done without so MUCH of it....all in all, not a bad read, if you don't mind the divergence off on the musings... ( )
  Lisa.Johnson.James | Apr 17, 2014 |
I expected this book to blow me away, but it didn't. It was interesting enough, and the author certainly takes on some immense themes: love, sex, and fidelity; Communism; war; art and its purpose; religion; and life's purpose.

Tomas and Tereza meet and fall in love suddenly. Tomas has been a habitual womanizer and is conflicted and puzzled by this newfound emotional bond, though his love for Tereza does not prevent him from continuing to have sex with any other woman who crosses his path. Sabina, one of his mistresses, seems to be in love with him too but is not willing or able to commit, even if Tomas were free. Franz, who falls in love with Sabina after they start an affair, searches for great meaning in a mundane life.

I think one of the best points the author makes is the fact of vastly different interpretations different individuals can have for the same events, places, or symbols. He even has a section in which he defines certain things from the points of view of Sabina and Franz, and we can see how one's upbringing and world view can slant the meaning of even the most commonplace thing.

Kundera seems to believe that the soul and the body can operate nearly independently of one another, that it is entirely possible to be emotionally committed to one person while having no physical/sexual fidelity. I can see that is a possibility and an explanation for humankind's tendency to have "meaningless" affairs, but still had difficulty accepting the premise. I wanted to throttle all these promiscuous people!

The entire story occurs with the backdrop of the Soviet occupation of Czechoslovakia, and the characters must deal with political unrest, questions of civic duty and loyalty, and fear of government reprisal in addition to their romantic dramas.

The book is thought provoking and reasonably engrossing, but I found it bleak and a bit disjointed. I did not find myself attracted to or sympathetic to any of the characters. Not my best read of the year, but not a waste of time either :) ( )
  glade1 | Feb 24, 2014 |
Very sad. The book was hard to get through due to the characters constant state of despair. As a view of life in a communist state, no question, you can feel the hopelessness and desperation. I am glad I read it. ( )
  ava-st-claire | Feb 21, 2014 |
Operative word "unbearable." I had high hopes, but found the characters unlikeable and the writing very formal and academic. ( )
  thatotter | Feb 4, 2014 |
It is so hard to read this book. It reminds me of the saying of “You’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t”. I believe the lovers’ story is a statement of how people fit into society. There is no right or wrong, but simply how a situation is seen in place and time. The story is very cleverly done. However, it was difficult for me to follow because the story line jumps all over the place with philosophical and political ideas woven throughout. For someone who likes to read stories on different levels, this is a great choice. For me, it was tough going. I decided to continue through to the end and was glad I did. Near the end of the book, I became interested in the historical background of the story and took some time to read more about it elsewhere. I also liked reading about the relationship between Tereza and her dog. It was very touching ( )
  SqueakyChu | Jan 19, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 130 (next | show all)
This is a book to bring home how parochial and inward looking most fiction written in the English language is. There is no possible way that The Unbearable Lightness Of Being could have been written by a British or US author, or indeed any other anglophile. The mind set, the life experiences and especially the history it is written from are all too different. While the thrust of this book is by no means the same, I was reminded by its sensibility of the work of Bohumil Hrabal – not surprisingly also a Czech author.

The book is unusual in another sense – it breaks most of the rules that aspiring writers are advised to adhere to. A lot of the action is told to us rather than shown, Kundera addresses the reader directly, inserts his opinions into the narrative, tells us his interpretations of the characters. He also messes with chronology (admittedly not a major drawback, if one at all) and parenthetically gives us important information about some characters in sections which ostensibly deal with others. In parts, especially in the author’s musings on kitsch as the denial of the existence of crap - in all its senses - in the world, it reads as a treatise rather than an exploration of the human condition. That is, at times it is not fiction at all.

Kundera is highly regarded, so is this the essence of high art in fiction? That, as well as dealing with “important” subjects - or perhaps being considered to be circumscribed yet still endeavouring to tell truth to power (whatever truth may be) - the author should step beyond the bounds of narrative; of story?

The problem with such an approach is that it tends to undermine suspension of disbelief. The characters become too obviously constructs; the reader is in danger of losing sympathy, or empathy, with them; or indeed to care. It is a fine line to tread.

Where The Unbearable Lightness Of Being is not unusual is in its treatment of those novelistic eternals love, sex and death. Indeed at times it seems to be fixated on sex.

While the exigencies of living in a totalitarian state do colour the narrative, the treatment is matter of fact, oblique, almost incidental. The choices the characters make merely fall within the constraints of such a system. It is true, however, that something similar could be said for characters in any milieu. There are constraints on us all.

What I did find disappointing was that rather than finish, the book just seemed to stop. While the fates of the characters Kundera leaves us with are already known, this hardly seemed fair. "Leave them wanting more" may be an old showbiz adage but in the context of a one-off novel might be thought to be a failing.
added by jackdeighton | editA Son Of The Rock, Jack Deighton (Jan 17, 2011)
The world, and particularly that part of the world we used to call, with fine carelessness, eastern Europe, has changed profoundly since 1984, but Kundera's novel seems as relevant now as it did when it was first published. Relevance, however, is nothing compared with that sense of felt life which the truly great novelists communicate.
The mind Mr. Kundera puts on display is truly formidable, and the subject of its concern is substantively alarming.
Moments of Olympian distance, in which the author shows his mortals ignorantly creeping toward oblivion, alternate with passages of stirring intimacy, with the novelist playing cheerleader, urging victories for everyone.
added by Shortride | editTime, Paul Gray (Apr 16, 1984)
''The Unbearable Lightness of Being'' is a fairly straightforward inquiry into the intertwined fates of two pairs of lovers. The fact that it aspires to be a more conventional novel accounts for both its virtues and its flaws. If ''Lightness'' demonstrates a new capacity, on Mr. Kundera's part, to create sympathetic characters and sustain a lyrical story, the increased formality of its narrative design also tends to throw a harsher light on his penchant for philosophical digression.

» Add other authors (75 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Kundera, Milanprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Heim, Michael HenryTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Oliver, JonathanNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Roth, SusannaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Siraste, KirstiTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Zgustová, MonikaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Шульгина, НинаTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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First words
La idea del eterno retorno es misteriosa y con ella Nietzsche dejó perplejo a los demás filósofos...
The idea of eternal return is a mysterious one, and Nietzsche has often perplexed other philosophers with it: to think that everything recurs as we once experienced it, and that the recurrence itself recurs ad infinitum! What does this mad myth signify?
Die Ewige Wiederkehr ist ein geheimnisvoller Gedanke, und Nietzsche hat damit manchen Philosophen in Verlegenheit gebracht: alles wird sich irgendwann so wiederholen, wie man es schon einmal erlebt hat, und auch diese Wiederholung wird sich unendlich wiederholen!
When the heart speaks, the mind finds it indecent to object.
Tomas did not realize at the time that metaphors are dangerous. Metaphors are not to be trifled with. A single metaphor can give birth to love.
...vertigo is something other than the fear of falling.  It is the voice of the emptiness below us which tempts us and lures us, it is the desire to fall, against which, terrified, we defend ourselves.
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Information from the Dutch Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to the English one.
Original title: Nesnesitelná lehkost bytí
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0060932139, Paperback)

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.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:21:16 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

Interweaves story and dream, past and present, and philosophy and poetry in the sardonic and erotic tale of two couples--Tomas and Teresa, and Sabina and her Swiss lover, Gerhart.

(summary from another edition)

» see all 9 descriptions

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