The Unbearable Lightness of Being  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

The Unbearable Lightness of Being (Czech language: Nesnesitelná lehkost bytí) is a novel written by Milan Kundera in 1982 and first published in 1984 in France. Set in 1968 Prague, the novel details the circumstances of life for artists and intellectuals in Czechoslovakia in the wake of the Prague Spring and the subsequent invasion by the USSR. The story's main character is Tomas, a well-known, successful surgeon, who criticizes the Czech Communists and as a result loses his position. Other important characters (who, together with Tomas, make up the group known as Kundera's Quartet) include his wife Tereza (a photographer), his lover Sabina (a painter), and Sabina's lover Franz (a university professor).

Philosophical underpinnings

Challenging Friedrich Nietzsche’s concept of eternal recurrence (the idea that the universe and its events have already occurred and will recur ad infinitum), the story’s thematic meditations posit the alternative; that each person has only one life to live, and that which occurs in life occurs only once and never again — thus the “lightness” of being. In contrast, the concept of eternal recurrence imposes a “heaviness” on our lives and on the decisions we make (to borrow from Nietzsche's metaphor, it gives them "weight".) Nietzsche believed this heaviness could be either a tremendous burden or great benefit depending on the individual's perspective.

The "unbearable lightness" in the title also refers to the lightness of love and sex, which are themes of the novel. Kundera portrays love as fleeting, haphazard and perhaps based on endless strings of coincidences, despite holding such significance for humans.

Film

The Unbearable Lightness of Being (film)

In 1988, an American-made film adaptation of the novel was released starring Daniel Day-Lewis, Lena Olin, and Juliette Binoche. In a note to the Czech edition of the book, Kundera remarks that the movie had very little to do with the spirit either of the novel or the characters in it. In the same note Kundera goes on to say that after this experience he no longer allows any adaptations of his work.

See also




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "The Unbearable Lightness of Being" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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