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The Unbearable Lightness of Being (by Milan Kundera)

This is a toughie. While I definitely loved the poetic title and the style of alternating fiction with non-fiction, I found the plot challenging to follow. It’s not a typical plotline, it’s non-chronological and non-linear.

You need to be fully immersed in the book to understand its structure, otherwise you easily get lost.

At some point, I even felt overwhelmed and almost guilty that I was not dedicating to it the right amount of effort.

There’s lots of deep philosophy in it that triggered many thoughts and made me contemplate life. In fact, the book came into my mind quite often during my walks.

So, for the entire duration of the read, I was unsure whether I liked it or not, or maybe I should say that I liked it, but intermittently.

Basically, Kundera explores the human struggle to give a purpose to life. The question is: should we live with lightness or with heaviness? The characters of the novel represent both approaches to life and what happens to them are the consequences of choosing either one or the other way of living.

Friedrich Nietzsche’s work of “eternal return” is referred to, as well as Parmenides’. I think that the answer of the author can be well summarised with his own words:

“The heavier the burden, […] the more real and truthful [our lives] become”.

In Conclusion

If you’re a demanding reader, this is the perfect book for you, while if you’re more a casual one, then, skip this book and move to the next one.

Title: The Unbearable Lightness of Being
Author: Milan Kundera
Content warnings: animal death, sexual content
First year published: 1984

From Goodreads:

A story of irreconcilable love and infidelities in which Kundera addresses himself to the nature of 20th-century being, offering a wide range of brilliant and amusing philosophical speculations. Encompasses the extremes of comedy and tragedy and was at once hailed by critics as a contemporary classic.