The Unbearable Lightness of Being – Milan Kundera

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(Read between 03/01/2016 – 11/01/2016)

I had heard of this book from various people over the years and decided to give it a go as my first book of 2016! The book concerns two men and two women predominantly. The novel takes place in the Prague Spring era of 1968. The main characters are Tomas, Tereza , Sabrina and Franz.

The novel is constantly referred to as a philosophical masterpiece and I approached the book thinking it would read like most other philosophical books. But this book is different from other philosophical books I have read in that it is more a novel which tackles modern philosophical issues through its narrative and characters.

The ‘lightness’ the title refers to is in regards to our lives. Kundera challenges Nietzsche’s suggestion that life is ever reoccurring, and instead counters that we only have one life and one chance. The lightness also refers to how different people view love. Each character in the novel has a different attitude to love and how they love others. Some characters see love as an extremely important issue and one which should be reserved for the very special. However other characters see love as an everyday occurrence and don’t consider the act of loyalty within love as an important aspect.

The novel does a great job of displaying the wide ranging views of love through an absorbing narrative, which connects each character through their various attitudes. In my opinion the novel is so engrossing because each character and their various outlooks are extremely realistic. Kundera doesn’t tell us outright what he believes, but instead presents each character’s view to both love and life, none of which are “wrong” or “right”.

Another aspect of the novel I enjoyed is its simplicity. Most works of philosophy I have read tend to be difficult to grasp and understand. In contrast, this novel is extremely easy to read and grasp. Because the book is a narrative, there are many interpretations of what is occurring and I believe that various readers will take extremely different views of what the book means to them. Therefore I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to read a philosophical piece but is concerned about understanding and interpreting the meanings.

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