Sunday, January 10

The Unbearable Lightness of Being

The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Milan Kundera
Worth: Photobucket

This is a fiction story that wraps itself around the philosophical ideas of the author. Kuranda's prose is witty and deceptively conversational, and his ideas and observations are, on a few occassions, captivating. Despite the onus on philosophy, it's actually a fairly light read.

However, these good points began to weigh heavy (yes, pun) after the first quarter. The potentially exciting philosophical ponderings disintergrate, for me, into meaningless and sometimes off-putting excuses for adultery. Off-putting in that it becomes super dull, and because the wife is first, annoyingly passive (rather than fascinatingly so) and then self-reproachful for not accepting her husband's love as it was!

This is first and foremost a book of ideas, so the story is secondary. Yet it is the vehicle for the ideas, and for me, are driven not over the edge, but simply stall. I could have accepted his meanderings and disconnected ideas if his prose was lyrical, poetic, which, while good, isn't either.

What I don't accept are his flimsy philosophical observations. His basic premise - questioning whether lightness is preferrable to heaviness, or whether heaviness is a bad thing - is a worthwhile one. Yet the explanations are assumptions backed up by, more often than not, grammatical rather than conceptual links. Just using 'therefore' doesn't a legimitate point make.

I think that I would have enjoyed this in my early 20's, when I was particularly open to being pushed philosophically and everything seemed amazing because of it's new opportunity to push. There was no pushing now, and the gentle nudges were easy to forget.

I gave it 3 stars for worth because it does have it's place, mostly for stylistic and cultural reasons, and partly because it's so well known, so it's worth discovering what it's all about, if you have that much extra time. I didn't hate it, but I would have preferred having had spent my time chewing on a different book.


  1. it's been years since i read this. will have to give it a second look (i remember loving it the first time)...nice to have found you! i have spent many years without a television and so i find reading the thing i turn to, when i've any spare time at all. happy 2010!

  2. Just followed the link from HM... I read this years ago too. I remember being on holiday with my parents at the time, actually. And I enjoyed it, but as you said, it might be something that is better when you are young and hungry for philosophy. I think I was about 17 or 18. Not a very insightful comment I'm afraid!

  3. Uh oh, I have this book on my shelves and have been getting ready to read it for the longest time. I guess now I will have a reason for putting the reading off a little longer :)


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