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The Unbearable Lightness of Being Paperback – Nov 1987

4.2 out of 5 stars 104 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 314 pages
  • Publisher: HarperPerennial; Mv Tie in edition (Nov. 1987)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060914653
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060914653
  • Product Dimensions: 1.9 x 13.3 x 20.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (104 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 877,847 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

"Brilliant . . . A work of high modernist playfulness and deep pathos."-- Janet Malcolm, "New York Review of Books""Kundera has raised the novel of ideas to a new level of dreamlike lyricism and emotional intensity." -- Jim Miller, "Newsweek""Kundera is a virtuoso . . . A work of the boldest mastery, originality, and richness."-- Elizabeth Hardwick, "Vanity Fair" -- Dieser Text bezieht sich auf eine andere Ausgabe: Paperback.

Book Description

One of the most important and affecting novels written in the twentieth century.

-- Dieser Text bezieht sich auf eine andere Ausgabe: Paperback.

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First Sentence
The idea of eternal return is a mysterious one, and Nietzsche has often perplexed other philosophers with it: to think that everything recurs as we once experienced it, and that the recurrence itself recurs ad infinitum! Read the first page
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
When this book was recommended to me, I was warned that I may find it to be heavy going in places. Thankfully, this has not proven to be true. While this is certainly in no way a "light" read, the near-poetic rhythm of Kundera's prose is such a joy to read that even the most reluctant reader will soon find him/herself unable to put it down. Most of this book is set in and around Communist Central Europe in the 1980s, and manages to evoke the mood of that time and place whilst simultaneously creating characters so real you could almost reach out and touch them, with the voice of Kundera occasionally interrupting to offer philosophical speculation on the character's lives and the themes of the book. The effect is intellectually stimulating and comforting at the same time, echoing (to me, at least) the flow of chidren's books (remember when Roald Dahl used to interrupt his stories to grumble about children? Like that, but better!). I know I ought to point out any flaws in this book, but there aren't any. Simply superb.
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Format: Paperback
Milan Kundera has the uncommon ability to twist and manipulate words to their full value and extract from them meaning that is not at first obvious. Throughout `The Unbearable Lightness of Being', he plays a game of word association that enables the reader to view his philosophical concepts in an entirely new light. At the crux of this game lies the debate between `weight' and `lightness' both of which can be considered `good' or `bad', if such crude divisions exist. However behind the metaphysical, Kundera delves into the very real emotions of his characters that he describes as being `born' of particular circumstances and ideas. Most effectively he captures the restlessness of Tereza whose `vertigo' forces her to constantly re-examine her life and what she seeks from it. Tomas is arguably the pivotal point of the novel, but Kundera creates all of his characters with incredible care. The time dedicated to each really pays off while at the same time Kundera slowly draws the reader into the philosophies of Nietzsche, Descartes and Parminides as well as his own conclusions about life and its mysteries.
`The Unbearable Lightness of Being' is utterly the best book I have read in a long, long time and I would recommend it to absolutely anyone, regardless of their taste in fiction. It is powerful, moving and thought-provoking and if I could give it any more than five stars I would. Please read this book!
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Format: Paperback
'The Unbearable Lightness of Being' follows the lives of Tomas (a Czechoslovakian surgeon), his wife Tereza and his mistress Sabina during the Prague Spring of 1968 and the turbulent years that followed the event.

At heart, The Unbearable Lightness of Being is the story of how three very different people attempt (and repeatedly fail) to reconcile their differing views of love. Tomas, for example, has promiscuous sex with as many women as possible, but he is only in love with one woman - his wife. For Tomas, love and sexuality are distinct and separate entities, and he has no moral scruples about loving one woman while sleeping with many:

"Tomas came to a conclusion: making love with a woman, and sleeping with a woman, are two separate passions, not merely different, but opposite. Loves does not make itself felt in the desire for copulation (a desire that extends to an infinite number of women) but in the desire for shared sleep (a desire limited to one woman)."

By contrast, Tomas' wife Tereza believes in marital fidelity - she loves her husband and blames herself for his womanizing life-style. Her despair in life comes from an unresolved personal mind-body dualism; she believes that Tomas loves her soul, but not her body. This fundamental difference in sexual behaviour is the conflict that underpins the entire novel - there's a heartbreaking pathos forged out of the relationship between Tomas and Tereza; their great depth of feeling is persistently tested by their irreconcilable views of love.

The third major protagonist is Sabina, an artist with an unusual take on the concept of `betrayal'. Sabina feels oppressed by her parochial ancestry and the artistic limitations imposed on her by the communist occupation.
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Format: Paperback
Milan Kundera, The Unbearable Lightness of Being

`Love does not make itself felt in the desire for copulation (a desire that extends to an infinite number of women) but in the desire for shared sleep (a desire limited to one woman).' Thus pontificates the narrator in Chapter 6 of Kundera's The Unbearable Lightness of Being (1984). This intriguing and at times irritating novel, set against the background of the Prague Spring, is at times more philosophy than story, the latter being based on the contrasting relationships between two pairs of lovers, Tomas and Tereza, and Franz and Sabina. The first pair carry the main plot, although the artist Sabina also features as one of Tomas's many mistresses. As a gynaecologist, Tomas avails himself of any opportunity he has for examining women's bodies. `He was not obsessed with women,' the narrator tells us, `he was obsessed with what in each of them is unimaginable, obsessed, in other words, with the one-millionth part that makes a woman dissimilar to others of her sex.' This is followed by a typical Kundera unravelling of Tomas's passion in which he is never quite able `to put down the imaginary scalpel.' The narrator ingenuously continues: `We may ask, of course, why he sought that millionth part dissimilarity in sex and nowhere else. Why couldn't he find it, say, in a woman's gait or culinary caprices or artistic taste?' The answer given by our commentator-narrator is that `Only in sexuality does the millionth part dissimilarity become precious, because, not accessible in public, it must be conquered.' In this book's clinical examination (at least in Tomas's case) it must.
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