The Unbearable Lightness of Being is an existential novel about two men, two women, a dog and their lives. The book takes place in Prague in the 1960s and 1970s and explores the artistic/intellectual life of Czechoslovakian society during this Communist period. Tomáš is a womanizing surgeon and intellectual, his wife Tereza is a photographer struggling with all her husband’s infidelities. Sabina a free spirited artist and Tomáš’s mistress and Franz is a professor and also a lover or Sabina. Then there is Karenin, the dog with an extreme disliking to change.
I know the synopsis doesn’t really do much to make this novel interesting but that’s just the basics of it. Really, this is a novel challenging Nietzsche’s concept of eternal recurrence. A concept which hypothesizes that the universe has been recurring, and will continue to recur. This book explores the idea that people only have one life to live and what occurs will only occur once and never again. The book also explores love and sex and whether the two are connected; for Tomáš they are not but for Tereza they are.
There is a lot more philosophical aspects to understand but as I don’t have much knowledge in those areas lets focus on the novel. This was surprisingly easy to read and lyrical and almost dreamlike feel to it but then there is a lot of emotional devastation as well. Not just with Tomáš’s actions but with the communist control over everyone.
From the very start you while see the gorgeous poetic prose within Milan Kundera’s writing and the unique plot concept will initially drive this book for the reader. Then you will continue reading it for the devastating beauty of love, sex, jealously, politics and existence. Once you finish, you might reflect on the philosophical and existential nature of this book. In the end it’s just one of those books that sounds a little weird and unappealing but is really worth reading.