Saturday, October 22, 2005

Book Rev: The Unbearable Lightness of the Being by Milan Kundera

Milan Kundera's The Unbearable Lightness of the Being is a pithy masterpiece. The author captures the essence of the being of four or five chief characters, describing in an achingly beautiful, yet unobstrusive fashion, their thoughts and deeds, what weighs upon their souls, what rescues their selves from onerous existence. The infedilety and philandering of Tomas, the doubts and dreams of Tereza, the artistic idiosyncracies of Sabrina and the intellectual myopia and indulgences of Franz are as engaging as the philosophical and historical notes that flow through the story.

The novel is a deep and defining study of humanity in 20th century, of our hopes and failings, of the moral and material needs and our capacity for being tormented by our pasts and passions. There are paragraphs and paragraphs of poetic beauty, and yet everything is written in the most simple, straightforward sentences. The description of Karenin, the dog owned by Tereza, is brilliant, especially in the final chapter of the book. Another favorite chapter was on "words misunderstood", for in the romance between beings belonging to two different pasts and countries, seemingly same words assume drastically different connotations.

This is a mature novel, meant for readers who can look beyond the surface. On surface this is novel laced with sexual content and contexts, a novel that describes the gimmicks of communist Russia and their stay in Czech country, a novel that spurns philosophical ramblings interweaven with discussion about the "shit being a onerous theological problem". On surface the novel is story of infidelity. But deep down this is a novel that strikes chord with the intelligent reader on so many different levels, be it romance, ethics, interpretion, or our own complexities arising from our own unique pathways of life.

The novel weighed on me, confronted me with many issues, ideas and memories, and then at times, it relased me from my own suffocating and smothering thoughts and experiences. I highly recommend this novel. If you enjoy Lawrence, Joyce and Gibran, be introduced to Kundera, who carries the torch of modernist writing ahead: and in what style!


Anonymous said...

aaj kal hume aapki review padne me takleef ho rahee hai.... to sochiye kya hoga, agar novel padenge to... :| but as always padne me maza aya...

cheers and keep reading...

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Anonymous said...

kundera has become somewhat of an obsession for me. its crazy that something so deeply thought provoking can be expressed so simply. while i still love this one, my personal favorite thus far is immortality. anyway, i'm gonna stop avoiding work now.


Vivek said...

thanks ash and rush!!

I guess I will pick immortality next. For the time being, Blindness by Saramago is opening my eyes to a new world:)!


Anonymous said...

arrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr... Vivek,
kya janab aaj aapne reply karne ka mood kiya? :)


Vani said...

I'd like to borrow it, if u have a copy.:-)


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