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Suffolk Voice Book Review: The Unbearable Lightness of Being

IMG_0619Overtime we come to find the phrases or proverbs that help us orientate the linings of how we define ourselves. There are individuals who associate with religious texts, Whitman poems or possibly a political manifesto or two. Whichever vice a person chooses, let “The Unbearable Lightness of Being” by Milan Kundera become part of their literary repertoire.

Typically I have found that novels with beloved characters become the timeless stories that symbolize human sentiments and narratives. The characters, whether they are similar to Scarlett O’Hara or Hester Prynne, are the embodiments of their stories. They evolve from their typed ink into these historical emblems unto which they aid the formation of a literature culture. However Kundera’s story is different. The characters are still present; in fact there are four of them, Tomas, Tereza, Sabina and Franz. Yet, it is not the seeping romance of his characters that help the reader reflect their own life; instead these qualities are invested into his words.

His words are more sacred than the characters he creates, of course this is all matter of opinion Though, his words are written with an exquisite purpose where every punctuation and adjective is a structural link. Written like philosophical poetry, Kundera graciously explains the opposing forces of living like “heaviness” and bearing the “lightness.” He uses his novel to exclaim his romantic, intellectual and even political experiences through the medium of his characters. Kundera’s most compelling concept is his formula for how to create characters. He discusses how Tomas or Tereza were born from an image he had in his mind and how each character is inevitably a branch of himself that he has yet to discover and act upon into the perceived curriculum of himself.

The vague details of the setting or time period of the story are important and should be mentioned. It takes place in the former Czechoslovakia in the late 1960’s under the imperialistic regime of the Soviet Union. Tomas and Tereza are married and one of the many conflicts of the novel is Tomas’ devotion to his womanizing. Sabina is his favorite mistress, while Franz is her other partner. All four have romance and sex in common however they live these functionalities by different means (lightness or heaviness, sex and love, marching or watching).  Though to truly understand the purity and genius to Kundera’s words, his work must be read. There’s a movie too with Daniel Day-Lewis but read the book first! The book is too precious and captivating to simply ignore, it’s a beautiful masterpiece that deserves an opportunity to inspire.

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