The Unbearable Lightness of Being

…by Milan Kundera.Set in Prague, this is a story about Tomas, Tereza, Sabina and Franz – how their lives are intertwined in the sphere of marriage and extra marital affairs. Tomas, married with a kid, divorces his wife and moves on to live a life in which he decides to have only casual relationships with no commitments. Things change when he meets Teresa, with whom he falls in love. Even though they get married, Tomas doesn’t give up his world of casual relationships; Teresa puts up with his infidelity. Sabina, an artist, is Tomas’ long-term mistress and Franz, an intellectual, is a married man who also has an affair with Sabina. That’s the story on the whole; with layers of philosophical notions here and there that makes the reader’s think.

I seldom start reading a book expecting too much. For some reason, I did with this one – not that I read any amazing review, or that I’ve read the author before to admire his work, or that I read the synopsis of the story and was blown away – but I picked up the book with great expectations, and must admit wasn’t really satisfied. As far as a plot for the novel goes, the story didn’t have a lot of energy. Yes, it made me think; yes, it made me wonder; but the plot dissolved after the first half. The first few of sections were very well crafted (especially the part on “Words Misunderstood”, my personal favorite, which I would go back to read over and over) for they made me muse about life, love and all that from a philosophical point of view. But that was it for me. The rest of the book seemed to be too much of a drag with each character drowning in the depths of his/her emotional baggage. It seemed more like reading essays about philosophy, politics and such put together rather than reading a novel. Maybe I just haven’t reached that level to be able to interpret the depths of the characters here, but whatever it is, I didn’t really enjoy reading the whole book.

On a positive note, this is a great book if you are looking for something thought provoking. It is, for parts, skillfully written that it will make the reader stop and ponder. The prose style is amazing. That was one thing that kept me going after the first few parts…it flows well enough to keep the reader engaged. As far as the writing is concerned, I would definitely pick up another book of the author’s without second thoughts.

Overall, while it is intellectually stimulating, it failed in other aspects to impress me. I would recommend it if you are looking for philosophical musings, but do not expect a strong organized storyline.

My rating: 3*.

*for the rating scale, click here.

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2 comments on “The Unbearable Lightness of Being

  1. I definitely want to check that book out… I just finished up with You Better Not Cry, by Augusten Burroughs. Delicious; if you’re into memoirs.

    Thought you might be interested in my blog. I run a collaborative blog – DysfunctionalBeginnings.com. Literary works about growing up, family, and beginnings in general (expressed in a variety of mediums!) Submissions go to dysfunctionalbeginnings@gmail.com.
    Let me know what you think!
    Thanks for your support…

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