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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Rediscovering a classic novel

Published: September 4, 2009
Section: Arts, Etc.

I have had tremendous luck recently with reading good books. As some of you may know, I was abroad last year in England, where coursework is sparse and good weather even sparser. These fabulous conditions were perfect for me to resume my childhood love of reading for pleasure.

Now that I have read so many great books (and no longer have the time to continue doing so), I feel that it is my duty to pass along these recommendations to you. I pass them along in no particular order.

First up is the Czech classic, “The Unbearable Lightness of Being” by Milan Kundera. It is a philosophical, fascinating, troubling, and emotional book which combines narratives with ideas beautifully. The title is semi-indicative of the novel. It is based upon the belief that because life is meaningless (and there is only one to live) it is light. Had it been meaningful and our life fixed, then it would be heavy. The reason that this lightness is so unbearable is that it goes against human desire to have our lives so meaningless and universally insignificant.

The narrative focuses around two characters: Thomas and Tereza. Thomas is a Czech physician from Prague who loves his job and loves his women. He was married at one point, but managed to get out of the relationship and decided to never be in one again. Instead he makes love with many, many woman and does not view sex and love as compatible.

Tereza then comes into Thomas’ life. They meet when he is out of town and on a spur of the moment decision, Tereza goes to Prague and manages to find Thomas. Thus begins their long and turbulent relationship. Tomas brings his philosophy on the separateness of love and sex to their relationship and is constantly cheating on Tereza who believes herself too weak to understand why he does this or how this separation is possible.

There are many secondary characters that Kundera examines to give his readers further insight into human nature. One such examination centered on a protest and some of the philosophy behind that.

Overall, the book is excellent. It can be a little depressing and even hard to grasp at times, but I thoroughly enjoyed the read. Sometimes it is good to look at the unlikable aspects of human nature. Kundera also gave me a character that I loved named Karenin, who is a dog that Thomas gives to Tereza as a companion. Whenever the book took a turn for the more depressing, Karenin was there to help Tereza and the readers see the good in things. The dog was a good balancer.

I would recommend this book to anyone who likes to learn a bit and challenge their own views whilst reading. It is not for everyone, but if you like a blend between philosophy and narrative, you’ll definitely love “The Unbearable Lightness of Being.”