Sunday, May 22, 2011

"There is no means of testing which decision is better, because there is no basis for comparison. We live everything as it comes, without warning, like an actor going on cold. And what can life be worth if the first rehearsal for life is life itself?"

The Unbearable Lightness of Being – Milan Kundera

306 pages

Genre:  Philosophy; Literary Fiction; Classic; Czech

Summary:  The Unbearable Lightness of Being is a philosophical novel that uses four distinct characters, Tomas, Tereza, Sabina, and Franz, to illustrate various concepts and insights relating to life.

ReviewThe Unbearable Lightness of Being was absolutely mind-blowing, and I will do my best to come up with a coherent review that does the book justice, as I’m still thinking about various ideas presented therein. 

Kundera’s philosophy is incredibly intriguing, and it really forces the reader to examine his or her own life and decisions.  What is it about life that gives it meaning, and can one ever really attain a “lightness of being?”  Are things that happen in life mere coincidences, or is there some other explanation?  What is the purpose of love, and what category of being “seen” does one fit into?

I’ve postulated on many of these questions before, and the way in which Kundera examined all of these ideas through his characters was quite profound.  For me, the plot and characters weren’t really all that important, and I have a feeling that was how it was supposed to be, as they seemed like nothing more than a framework for his philosophy.   The underlying thought processes of the characters, however, was rather interesting, and ultimately provided a spectacular backdrop on which to explore issues.  I could relate to many of the ideas in this novel, and in a way, it was comforting to know that I’m not the only one who thinks about these things, even if the ideas aren’t always happy ones.

If you’re looking for an introspective, philosophical novel that will force you to examine your conceptions on a plethora of different questions, The Unbearable Lightness of Being is an absolute must read.  I know this book will linger in my mind for quite awhile. 

*Just so you're aware, there is quite a bit of sexual content in this book, so if that doesn't float your boat, you may not like this too much.

Rating:  4.5/5

Other Books by Milan KunderaEncounter, Le Rideau, Identity, The Book of Laughter and Forgetting, The Farewell Party

This book was also made into a movie of the same title in 1988.