The Unbearable Lightness of Being

Milan Kundera

Rating 4.5/5

I would have rated this between 4 and 5 if I had the option. This is the book Kundera is most identified with and I was eager to read it post my experience with Immortality. Needless to say, I wasn’t disappointed.

I find Kundera to be an immensely daring author. I say so because his characters, on multiple occasions, reveal thoughts that are deviant at best, and downright disturbing in general. And as a reader, one is often forced to consider that this is actually all coming from the author’s mind. The characters in the plot are but mere vehicles to disseminate the machinations of the author’s thoughts.

And Kundera does treat his characters like that. It is remarkable how events hardly ever ‘happen’ in his novels. They are more often than not replayed inside an individual’s head thereby making it aptly clear that they are an interpretation rather than an objective episode (if something like that does exist). Kundera is almost lazy in his conclusion of characters’ lives and the incident of death itself is, at best, mentioned in passing. What he concerns himself much more with is the symbolism around it and the effect it has on others.

The book, much like ‘Immortality’, delves deep into the nature of love and physical intimacy — unabashedly keeping the two on separate planes. His writings reflect the relatively higher sexual freedom in the part of Europe he comes from. In a lot of places, this stance of his might not ring in well with the masses and may actually be considered blasphemous. There is, however, no doubt about the consummate poignance with which he treats his dwellings on this topic.

As a typical reader, what his books leave me wanting for is a sense of closure. They pose more questions than they answer. They weave theories and outcomes in the characters’ minds and through that in the readers’. They draw intricate, sometimes alarmingly so, sketches of people and then paints them a shade of grey. There is no clear good or bad. Much like life.

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