Publisher: Faber And Faber
Price: INR 399
Milan Kundera, in his most acclaimed book ‘The Unbearable Lightness of Being’ challenges this belief and says that that each person has only one life to live, and that which occurs in life occurs only once and never again. Hence, there is a lightness associated to our being, unlike the Friedrich Nietzsche concept of eternal occurrence.
The story revolves around two women, two men and a dog. Tereza is in love with her cheating husband, Tomas and has to live with his infidelities. Tomas’s muse, Sabina is an artist, whose the lives the lightness. And Franz, who loves Sabina, stands to lose all in this love. Karenin, Tomas and Tereza’s dog is a bitch although the name is a masculine one, and is a reference to Alexei Karenin, the husband in Anna Karenin.
The novel examines the themes of love, passion and existence. Kundera portrays love as fleeting, haphazard and perhaps based on endless strings of coincidences, despite holding such significance for humans. Love is tough, filled with deceit, mistrust and betrayal. But there is strength in love and all you can do is hold on to it. The characters in the novel keep alternating, trying to find a plane of life that offers them perfect happiness. The part between perfection and imperfection is where they lie, where each decision comes with its own cost. It is also because of this very fact of living only one life that these life choices do not have much weight in the bigger picture. In a world where lives are shaped by irrevocable choices and fortuitous events, and everything occurs but once, existence seems to lose its substance, its weight.
Kundera is an extremely unconventional writer. A firm non-believer of characters and plot, he merely uses them idly as mediums to explain his ideas of existence. If you are one who revels in abstraction and mystification of the greatest order, then this book is definitely for you. There are various metaphors in the book that, ironically make the book really heavy. This is the type of book you figure out immediately and are irrevocably changed after the last page, or you spend your whole life scratching your head wondering what it all meant.
Overall Rating: 9/10
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