The Unbearable Lightness of Being
Milan Kundera
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Buy *The Unbearable Lightness of Being* by Milan Kundera online

The Unbearable Lightness of Being
Milan Kundera
Harper Perennial
352 pages
September 2008
rated 5 of 5 possible stars

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A modern literary classic first published in 1984, Milan Kundera’s The Unbearable Lightness of Being follows the lives of four people living in 1960’s Prague during Russian's invasion of Czechoslovakia. Considered by many to be Kundera's finest novel, The Unbearable Lightness of Being deals with the struggle of the four main characters as they deal with the "lightness" and "heaviness" of their emotions and the consequences of their actions. The novel was banned in Czechoslovakia until 1989.

The main character is Tomas, a talented surgeon who becomes a political casualty of the Czech regime and is forced to become a window-washer. Tomas is torn between love and lust, heaviness and light, intellect and emotion. At the beginning of the novel, Tomas meets Tereza, and they fall in love. Tereza moves in with Tomas, even though he is a incapable of being faithful to one woman. He is a man who "tried to design his life in such a way that no woman could ever move in with a suitcase."

Tereza is "neither mistress nor wife" at the beginning of the novel. She is "a child whom he had taken from a bulrush basket that had been daubed with pitch and sent to the riverbank of his bed." Tereza is the opposite of Tomas' freedom-loving mistress, Sabina.

Tomas eventually marries Tereza but continues to have affairs with other women. Tereza is tormented by his infidelity and has nightmares that she's being forced to stand in a corner while Tomas makes love to Sabina.

Sabina is a painter who, despite her sexual freedom, struggles with her puritanical past. Her lover is Franz, a idealistic professor. His life revolves around books until he becomes interested in taking part in political protests.

The Unbearable Lightness of Being isn't driven by plot but by the incredible richness of the main characters’ inner lives. Partly philosophical and part poetry, Kundera's work is a treasure meant to be read again and again.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at © Heather Darcy, 2009

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