The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera was first published in 1984. It follows the intertwining relationships of Tomas, Tereza, Sabina, Franz, and a dog named Karenin against the backdrop of the Soviet Union’s takeover of Czechoslovakia in 1968. Exploring the ways in which the Communist regime exploited intellectuals at the time and the repercussions for those connected to Czechs even in other parts of Europe, the novel is a beautiful history lesson. Kundera masterfully intermingles philosophy, politics, commentary on the arts, and an incredibly complicated and imperfect love story.
I first read this novel a couple years ago, and while I was entranced by it, I did not get a full grasp on it. Coming back to it now, I have a greater appreciation and ability to understand it. It’s extremely complicated, not in terms of plot or characters, but in the way that Kundera jumps from story to philosophical commentary. I believe it’s a book I will come back to throughout my life, and each time experience something different.
I recommend this book to anyone who is interested in Soviet politics, love stories, philosophy, or just wants to read an incredibly well-crafted novel. Far from being “junk food,” this novel is of extremely high quality that will satisfy most any reader. The story is risque at times, so if you’re easily offended, I would take caution.
I’ve just started reading A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson, so look for a review for that in the upcoming months.