The Unbearable Lightness of BeingPaperback
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- Publisher: Faber & Faber Fiction
- Format: Paperback | 320 pages
- Dimensions: 122mm x 194mm x 24mm | 222g
- Publication date: 21 August 2000
- ISBN 10: 0571135390
- ISBN 13: 9780571135394
- Sales rank: 8,298
In this novel - a story of irreconcilable loves and infidelities - Milan Kundera addresses himself to the nature of twentieth-century 'Being' In a world in which lives are shaped by irrevocable choices and by fortuitous events, a world in which everything occurs but once, existence seems to lose its substance, its weight. We feel, says the novelist, 'the unbearable lightness of being' - not only as the consequence of our private acts but also in the public sphere, and the two inevitably intertwine. Juxtaposing Prague, Geneva, Thailand and the United States, this masterly novel encompasses the extremes of comedy and tragedy, and embraces, it seems, all aspects of human existence. It offers a wide range of brilliant and amusing philosophical speculations and it descants on a variety of styles.
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The French-Czech novelist Milan Kundera was born in the Czech Republic and has lived in France since 1975.
"Brilliant . . . A work of high modernist playfulness and deep pathos."-- Janet Malcolm, "New York Review of Books""Kundera has raised the novel of ideas to a new level of dreamlike lyricism and emotional intensity." -- Jim Miller, "Newsweek""Kundera is a virtuoso . . . A work of the boldest mastery, originality, and richness."-- Elizabeth Hardwick, "Vanity Fair"
Like the much-praised (little-read?)Book of Laughter and Forgetting (1980): another Kundera collage - part narrative, part speculative, combining erotic, political, and metaphysical elements. The philosophical frame is quite shifty this time, moving from notion to notion: consideration of the need for heaviness in existence (lack of weight equates with anomie, lovelessness, terror); kitsch; relations with animals; a theory of Paradise based on the denial of excrement. And, in these scattered sections, Kundera seems more often coy than profound, his apothegms usually verging on the commonplace. ("A question with no answer is a barrier that cannot be breached. In other words, it is questions with no answers that set the limits of human possibility, describe the boundaries of human existence.") On the other hand, interest quickens whenever Kundera turns to his narrative: the plight of a disenfranchised Prague surgeon, Tomas, and his photographer-lover, Tereza - mirrored by a Western couple, Swiss professor Franz and his painter-mistress, Sabina. Both couples are involved in oblique investigations of the spirituality and freedom of sex - as tested against the lack of spirit and freedom in the world at large. There's one powerfully touching, thoughtfully charged section rendering the death of Tomas and Tereza's old dog; the prose offers a few luminescent touches that are quintessential Kundera. ("Then he pulled off her panties and she was completely naked. When her soul saw her naked body in the arms of a stranger, it was so incredulous that it might as well have been watching the planet Mars at close range.") But, apart from these moments, the book generates little accumulating power: the oddness of its format requires great reader-patience - a patience that's rewarded only with evasive suggestion. And though Kundera's seriousness and natural grace are everywhere, they are finally beetled by the feckless anemia of the collage/pastiche approach. (Kirkus Reviews)