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Olemisen sietämätön keveys by Milan…

Olemisen sietämätön keveys (original 1984; edition 1996)

by Milan Kundera

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
18,714216142 (4.02)2 / 359
Interweaves story and dream, past and present, and philosophy and poetry in a sardonic and erotic tale of two couples--Tomas and Teresa, and Sabina and her Swiss lover, Gerhart.
Title:Olemisen sietämätön keveys
Authors:Milan Kundera
Info:Porvoo: WSOY, 1996. 390 s. 9. p
Collections:Your library

Work details

The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera (1984)

  1. 30
    The Leopard by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa (Eustrabirbeonne)
  2. 10
    Hopscotch by Julio Cortázar (olonec)
    olonec: I'd call this one The Unbearable Heaviness of Being
  3. 21
    Sophie's Choice by William Styron (rretzler)
  4. 00
    Darkness at Noon by Arthur Koestler (charlie68)
    charlie68: Similar themes
  5. 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.
  6. 00
    Perfume: The Story of a Murderer by Patrick Süskind (sturlington)
  7. 01
    In Praise of Older Women by Stephen Vizinczey (soylentgreen23)
    soylentgreen23: The perfect companion piece, since it deals with a lot of sex, women, affairs, and surviving in Communist Eastern Europe.

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English (177)  Spanish (12)  French (9)  Dutch (6)  German (2)  Swedish (1)  Catalan (1)  Portuguese (1)  Romanian (1)  Hungarian (1)  Danish (1)  Arabic (1)  Italian (1)  Portuguese (Portugal) (1)  Hebrew (1)  All languages (216)
Showing 1-5 of 177 (next | show all)
Beautifully written and a bit more of a challenging read. I'm very glad I read it. ( )
  withlightandlove | Oct 24, 2019 |

An interesting poetic style tinged by layers of sadness. It was well worth the read. ( )
  DanielSTJ | May 5, 2019 |
A strange book with many digressions, and not a lot of plot, but still with a lot to say. ( )
  charlie68 | Mar 22, 2019 |
"When the heart speaks, the mind finds it indecent to object."

The Unbearable Lightness of Being is not a straight forward tale as it features a love story as well as some philosophical musings which is apparent from the outset In fact the book opens with a philosophical discussion of lightness versus heaviness which sets the stage for the remainder of the novel.

Set in 1968 in Prague, Tomas, a brilliant Prague surgeon briefly married in the past, is established as a womaniser enjoying a multitude of brief sexual adventures with a series of different women. One day he is sent to a provincial town when his boss is suffering from sciatica problems, there he meets Tereza, a café waitress.

Tereza had been living in a small town dreaming of escaping it and her overbearing mother. She falls in love with Tomas instantly so when he returns to Prague she follows him. Once in the city they live together, but Tomas is unable to give up his mistresses. Tereza struggles to accept Tomas's libertine attitude towards sex, suffering from nightmares and contemplating suicide.

To keep Tereza happy, Tomas marries her but he keeps his mistresses, in particular his long-term lover Sabina, a painter. The two women grow friendly and Sabina finds Tereza a job in a photography studio. However, Tereza's jealousy fails to diminish.

When Soviet Army occupies the country Sabina flees to Switzerland where she is later joined by Tomas and Tereza. However, once in Zurich Tereza realizes she is jobless and must sit at home while Tomas continues with his career and having affairs, so decides to return to Prague. Tomas attempts to return to his bachelor ways but after a few days gives up and returns to Prague and Tereza. Back in Prague Tomas loses his position as a surgeon when he refuses to sign a letter praising the Communist regime and gets a job washing windows. His fame persists, however, and he continues seducing the women he works for.

Tereza has an affair with a tall engineer in the hope of coming closer to Tomas's way of life but instead it only makes her even more miserable. Tomas finally realises that he cannot continue of his libertine lifestyle and agrees to move to the country with Tereza ending his sexual adventures. One night Tomas and Tereza are killed together in a driving accident.

Meanwhile in Geneva, Sabina has a love affair with Franz, a university professor, but when Franz leaves his wife expecting to move in with her, Sabina abruptly leaves Switzerland initially to Paris and then America where she learns of Tomas and Tereza's deaths.

Sexuality and the body are central themes of the book. Tomas loves the female form and has had sex with over 200 different women, Tereza in contrast hates her own body. Whilst Tomas and Sabina sees sex and love as being two different entities Tereza and Franz believe them to be incontrovertibly linked. Similarly, lightness and weight are also important themes. Tomas and Sabina with their liberal views are seen as being light whereas Tereza and Franz with their more conservative views are portrayed as being weighty.

Overall I found this an interesting and original read mixing as it does fiction and philosophical debate but at times I found it rather banal and repetitive hence the relatively low rating. ( )
  PilgrimJess | Mar 8, 2019 |
Flawless. One of the five best books I’ve ever read. It changed my life. What else can I say... ( )
  ProfH | Jan 27, 2019 |
Showing 1-5 of 177 (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 (31 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Kundera, Milanprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Barbato, AntonioTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
de Valenzuela, FernandoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Heim, Michael HenryTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Marcellino, FredCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Oliver, JonathanNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Roth, SusannaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Siraste, KirstiTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Valenzuela, Fernando deTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Zgustová, MonikaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Шульгина, НинаTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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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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Haiku summary
Tomas likes women
Teresa and Sabina
How does kitsch fit in?

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