Review: The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera

Series: No, stand-alone

Published: September 2nd 2004

Publisher: Faber and Faber

Details: Paperback, 306 pages

My Rating: 1/5


A young woman in love with a man torn between his love for her and his incorrigible womanizing; one of his mistresses and her humbly faithful lover — these are the two couples whose story is told in this masterful novel. 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. Hence, we feel “the unbearable lightness of being” not only as the consequence of our pristine actions but also in the public sphere, and the two inevitably intertwine.

My thoughts:

This book nearly killed my lust for reading. You know how a single book can either halter a current period of book frenzy or start such a period, Shantaram an example of the latter. Well, after having finished this book, I was momentarily “tired” of reading. I have read a couple of reviews of this book and it seems like you either hate it or love it. Well there is no doubt in which team I belong. I got the book from a friend who belonged to team “love” and inspired by his praises dove right into the book.

Well, where do I start. I think if one word would describe this novel it would be pretentious, and the book is on a bad note already there. You see, I don’t like pretentious, no matter how great work of art it is and how profound and intelligent.. if I get the feeling that the artist (or author in this case) takes him or herself too seriously, then the work itself doesn’t do it for me.

Taken that aside, and stating the obvious fact; it took me nearly 2 months to finish the book, which considering how quickly I am capable of reading a book (see hunger games) is a very very bad sign.

So why then, apart from it being pretentious, did I struggle to get through this novel? Mainly, it was because I need to root for the characters to find the book interesting. I’m not saying I have to love them, in fact I welcome any emotion, but the book has to provoke some kind of feeling towards the characters, or else I won’t care what happens. The problem with Kundera’s book is that I didn’t feel a thing for any of the characters. Kundera repeatedly states that his characters are not real, just merely puppets used to express his ideas. While that may help his ideas he didn´t help me getting connected to the characters. And needless to say, I´m far more interested in the characters of a book than abstract ideas.

Another problem with the book is that it was too somber and serious for its own good. Reading this book was like dragging yourself through a greyish landscape filled with heavy clouds and never once catch a glimpse of the sun. Gloomy would be the correct word. Depressive another. Well, you get my drift. I would have liked to see at least a few glimpses of humour to lift things up a bit or balance things out so that the depressive mood throughout the book didn’t get quite so overwhelming.

Finally, as there are so many different opinions about this book I don’t want to discourage anyone from reading it, that is, if you’re curious, see for yourself. Who knows, you might belong to team “love”? But personally, I see it as an achievement having made it through the book, to the very last page.

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