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A Pithy Masterpiece
on August 19, 2009
Milan Kundera's The Unbearable Lightness of the Being is a pithy masterpiece. The author captures the essence of the 'being' of four or five chief characters. He manages to describe their thoughts and deeds, what weighs upon their souls, what rescues their selves from onerous existence, in an achingly beautiful, yet unobtrusive way. The infidelity & philandering of Tomas, the doubts and dreams of Tereza, the artistic idiosyncrasies of Sabrina and the intellectual myopia and indulgences of Franz are as engaging as the philosophical and historical notes that flow through the story.
The novel is a deep and defining study of humanity in 20th century, of our hopes and failings, of the moral and material needs and our capacity for being tormented by our pasts and passions. There are paragraphs and paragraphs of poetic beauty, and yet everything is written in the most simple, straightforward sentences. The description of Karenin, the dog owned by Tereza, is brilliant, especially in the final chapter of the book. Another favorite chapter was on "words misunderstood", for in the romance between beings belonging to two different pasts and two countries, where seemingly same words assume drastically different connotations.
This is a mature novel, meant for readers who can look beyond the surface. On surface this is novel laced with sexual content and contexts, a novel that describes the gimmicks of communist Russia and their stay in Czech country, a novel that spurns philosophical ramblings interwoven with discussion about the "sh** being a onerous theological problem". On surface the novel is story of infidelity. But deep down this is a novel that strikes chord with the intelligent reader on so many different levels, be it romance, ethics, interpretation, or our own complexities arising from our own unique pathways of life.
The novel weighed on me, confronted me with many issues, ideas and memories, and then at times, it released me from my own suffocating and smothering thoughts and experiences. I highly recommend this novel. If you enjoy Lawrence, Joyce and Gibran, be introduced to Kundera, who carries the torch of modernist writing ahead: and in what style!