Book Review: The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera

Like the doctor, Tomas, I’m torn between two convictions. To see the book as irrelevant or something to ponder about. For me, the question of infidelity, marriage, and lust doesn’t tear me apart, and Tomas’s struggle felt irrelevant for me. Of course, there was to be enjoyed the philosophical pondering, and there were moments when I enjoyed it. But did it make me see Tomas or his situation and life in a new light? The simple answer is no. I was ready to abandon this book and question my friend’s love for it, but then the inner state of Tereza stepped in. She had substance. She was raw, and she had a background, unlike the dear doctor whose humanity only showed at the end. And this was not because of some moral principles I have for or against marriage or him. But because until then, our dear doctor had sung the same song repeatedly without understanding himself or those around him. And I would praise the book if I saw this was done deliberately, but for me, it didn’t seem like that.

Then the communication between Tomas and his wife leaves me empty. Or more like the lack of it. I guess that is a huge problem. The silent struggle to lay next to someone without having the courage to speak what is going on inside one’s head and this holds not only true to Tomas but Tereza as well. For me, the concept felt alien, and I don’t mean like I don’t understand it or that I don’t see it having a huge impact on life and partnership. It does. But it doesn’t resonate with me. It is not a struggle in life that fascinates me or cause for endless nights of pondering. It is a problem people, married couples, ignore or actively used to torment themselves and those around them. It is a habit learned or taken, but it holds no mystery for me. No revelation that oh, yes, life/marriage/love/partnership, what a thing!

The only beautiful concept I find in the book is how in the background fascism, control, war plays a role, and how little agony it causes for the characters and their motivations in life. It is like this easily ignored pink elephant as they concentrate on their broken selves, yet saw no reason to fix the cracks. And I do see this is done in purpose. That all this is part of Kundera’s philosophy of life, language, communication, state of being, and so on, but his wisdom doesn’t resonate with me. I appreciate the jumping between the people and the narrator. It is prose I like. But I find I’m no different when I began reading this book, so maybe this wasn’t for me. Perhaps Nietzsche’s nihilism written into the struggles of this womanizing doctor just left me where I was. Understanding that life is meaningless, understanding this or even ignoring the meaningless causes pain, that we do our best from one scene to another and hope there is silver lining or happiness somewhere, yet, during all this, we fail to see what we have and value it, continually thirsting for more and something else, and we find our lives miserable, and we ignore our own part on it. My question is, does meaningless entail throwing out morals and value? (Not meaning here extramarital affairs, but the value of another human being and doing right by them.) Does it have to be so?

Thank you for reading! Have a light and silly day!

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