The Unbearable Lightness of Being

The greatest comedy of human existence is the insignificance of our actions.

Milan Kundera’s acclaimed work is a profoundly lyrical take on the intersecting layers of fate and free will, emotions and caprice and other opposing vagaries of life. As we follow the characters through their lives what strikes us is the banality of the decisions that have far reaching consequences. Some intentional, some unintentional.

Why is love and sex paired always? Can one find their self in another? Does regularity bring comfort? Do sorrow and grief weigh us down? Is being unattached a burden? Is lightness preferable to heaviness? Do ignorant actions warrant condemnation? Can one know everything? What is the state of an unbearable lightness of being?

Kundera’s style and setting is extremely poetic. And since the book is already reviewed by the best person (really, once you read the book you will realize that critics are just meta for this book) I will admit I have a weakness. I always equate with extremes. For instance, in this case, I would have constantly compared their existence with a radically autocratic country like Iraq, or contrasted the lives of Teresa and Sabina with those of slum dwellers from Congo. In that sense this is a book that waxes poetic essence of the pseudo sad. People who can afford to give in to maudlin soul searches and long drawn stares into the sunset with melancholy. But I was willing to not engage in such exercises most of the time because the heart of the book dealt with such universal themes that I would have been petty to drag it into a class comparison.

It does seem though that Kundera’s take on life and its lightness is extremely accurate. However the lack of perspective is glaring. There are no counterfoils to these heavy characters. This is just nitpicking on my part because the book is worth its weight in gold. So somehow though I am not a fan of the book I respect it really much.

Interestingly I was left with a tangential bitter experience at the end. What do I do after I read an extremely amazing book? I look to see what people say about it. I ferret out youtube videos with not more than 3 digit views. If there is a movie adaptation I watch it. And unfortunately I watched Philip Kaufman’s version of the book.

The movie was an insult to the book. Hollywood Kitsch.

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