Milan Kundera’s The Unbearable Lightness of Being

By Angelique P. Manalad, Contributor

To love promiscuously without the yoke of guilt, to savor the illicit, to free sex from love and to find ecstasy in rebellion, one can hardly stand being unfettered and unbound. The Unbearable Lightness of Being, French/Czech novelist Milan Kundera most notable work written in 1982, explores four lives intertwined in tumultuous times.

Kundera delivers a compelling tale set in the time of Soviet occupation of Czechoslovakia. The book revolves around inner conflicts of four individuals as they search for love and happiness. He reveals in detail the patterns that characterize each protagonist.

A womanizing doctor finally meets someone he can’t live without, yet is still unable to keep away from his fascination of discovering the uniqueness of each woman he meets.

A woman painter driven by her eccentric ways and her thirst to betray is entangled with love affairs. As the regular mistress of the doctor, they have a deep friendship that makes them separate their physical attractions to their emotional connection with each other.

A young waitress finally finds her strength and purpose in life upon meeting the love of her life, unknowingly making her weakness her strength in making the man devote his life. Her past haunting her being and struggling with the fear of not being able to be the lone woman for his man, she is bothered with meaningful dreams as she slumbers.

And finally, the painter’s other lover abandons his family only to be abandoned himself. Yet he continues devoting his life until his last breath to the woman he deeply loves.

Kundera reveals insights on postmodern love and puts to words fears and questions most often unsaid. He tried to identify the thin line between love, companionship and domination.

He unravels the rich tapestries of the human mind and exposes threads of human emotions—the ironic differences between lightness and weight, lust and love, music and noise, betrayal and fidelity, light and dark. The book provided a great deal of help from the European art and politics as background, but was still able to weave the fictional lives of the four protagonist, representing each struggle to find that certain lightness of their existence.

The Unbearable Lightness of Being reveals tantalizing details of the human conditions, things that may uncomfortably resemble our own lives. With each turn of a page, you’ll find yourself engrossed, almost unbearably.


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