The Unbearable Lightness of Being Study Guide

The Unbearable Lightness of Being Study Guide

Original title:
Nesnesitelná lehkost bytí

The Unbearable Lightness of Being is a novel that describes the family life of Czech couple, Tomas and Tereza, where Tomas is obsessed with his work and is an incurable womanizer, who considers flirt, sex and affairs a necessary part of his life, completely disconnected from love. Other characters are his lover and friend Sabina and her own second lover Franz, who loves her sincerely.

The author opposes the Nietzschean concept of the eternal recurring of each event in history. Kundera states that every human has only one life to live and each act, thought, emotion and experience is unique. This, and the ability to enjoy every single moment without planning further is the “lightness” of being. Tomas and Sabina are portrayed as “light” when Tereza is more “heavy” weighing down her spouse. At first, we see that Tomas considers Tereza a burden, an obstacle between him and the lifestyle he wants to have. But when Tereza, tired of this all, returns to their hometown, Tomas realizes that the lightness of being becomes unbearable for him, that his love to Tereza is something much more important and life-changing that he never noticed before she went away. This realization changes all his worldview and gradually changes his life, learning Tomas to pay attention to mundane events and experience them as something unique and satisfying.

His devotion to taste every experience possible and live dozens of lives with different people, in different places and feeling different emotions finally leads him to question: how can the person choose one life if after choice they won’t be able to compare it to others and understand what they have lost? The ending of the novel shows us the answer: sometimes the choice feels so right and true that there is no need and desire to try anything else, enjoying every moment of current life.

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