Milan Kundera – The Unberable Lightness of Being

Author: Milan Kundera
Title:  The Unbearable Lightness of Being
Published: 1984
Publisher: Harper & Row
Length: 314 pages
Genre: Philosophical literature
Target age: Adult
Why I picked it up: On my TBR list
Rating: 4.5 stars
Challenges: Global | 100+
Buy: Chapters | Barnes and Noble | Check your local bookstore!

It appears I’m on a bit of a philosophical, deep-thinking, big picture, meaning of life kick in regards to the type of books I feel like reading lately. (I’m going to look for some Kafka at the library tomorrow). I started this book a few weeks ago, couldn’t really get into it, but I picked it up again a few days ago, thought of it in a different light and devoured it. I am enjoying exploring writing styles that are very different from what I had become accustomed to reading and content that really pushes the boundaries of how I think and perceive ideas. That summarizes my overall satisfied experience with this novel; I’ll delve more into something of the notes I made while reading this book.

This is a novel mostly about three things (in opinion, the most important themes for me, etc, etc.): types of love, what it means to be human and revolution. Which, of course, are subjects full of ideas that are very fascinating for me to explore. I liked how each topic was delved into, providing different perspectives from the views of four different characters. The setting and time period of the novel (Czechoslovakia around the time of Warsaw Pact invasion [a topic of which I now have some knowledge about due to reading this novel and then looking up the events on Wikipedia]) provided a good backdrop in/on which to explore these ideas.

It took me awhile to get a hold of the narration style. At first I was really confused, then I thought maybe I understood, but I didn’t want to assume, so I kept on being confused until I could clarify for sure that who I thought was narrating was narrating (wow, this must be the most convoluted sentence I’ve written since NaNo XP). ANYHOW. The narrator, I eventually grasped, is the author of the novel. However, I wasn’t sure if this was intended to be Kundera or if ‘the author of the novel’ is a character in him/herself. It’s an interesting thought/POV, one I haven’t encountered much (or probably ever) and one I will definitely think about when I reread this book. An excerpt (bits like this aren’t too common, but I absolutely love them, being a writerly type myself):

I have known all these situations, I have experienced them myself, yet none of them has given rise to the person my curriculum vitae and I represent. The characters in my novels are my own unrealized possibilities. That is why I am equally fond of them and equally horrified by them. Each one has crossed a border that I myself have circumvented.

 My last little note is on chronology. Really, it just jumps all over the place but it in a very orderly and connected way. I wouldn’t even really be thinking about it if it weren’t for the one event that is mentioned every now and then throughout the story and that is Tomas and Tereza’s deaths (this isn’t really a spoiler, there’s a statement at one point that just throws this fact at the reader but I can’t remember where it was. It was in a chapter about Sabina and the fact that Tereza and Tomas die together in a car accident is just thrown in with some other facts. This is also mentioned in couple of other places long before the actual event takes place. If I was writing about this book for an English class, that would be something I would probably pick apart and analyze but honestly, I would have to read the book again and make note of the times that incident crops up to better understand it. It felt, not awkward, but not natural, and I feel like it was there for a reason. Another something to look for when I reread this book, I suppose!

 

Extra Books – February 28 to March 6

  • Zen Keys by Thich Naht Hahn
    • Published: 1994
    • Genre: Spiritual non-fiction
    • Why I picked it up: Pursuing an interest in Zen Buddhism
    • Rating: 4.5
    • Challenges: 100+
    • My Thoughts:
      • A very handy, insightful little book. Very good at explaining the concepts that fuel Zen Buddhism, very helpful for a beginner like me. It’s a very book XP
  • The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
    • Published: October 1926
    • Genre: Modernist fiction
    • Why I picked it up: On my TBR list
    • Rating: 3 stars
    • Challenges: 100+
    • My Thoughts: 
      • I am definitely a fan of Hemingway’s style, that much can be said. I wonder what it would have been like to read one of his books 80 years ago, when his style would have been so shocking and different?
      • The story, well, I can’t say I enjoyed that as much. It for sure picked up in the last 100 pages or so, but I didn’t feel very drawn in. It felt like a small story, just a quick little thing to read through in a sitting. I also think this is one of those books where historical context is very helpful in understanding/’getting’ it, as I felt I understood the book more once I read it’s Wikipedia page…
      • On a bit of a sidenote, I wonder if reading Wiki pages after finishing a book is making me lazy or not…I like to think it isn’t. I do put a lot of thought into a book while I’m reading it, I make my own notes and jot down questions. I think reading up on the book some more after finishing it helps fills in the cracks that I didn’t understand.
  • Zombicorns by John Green
    • Published: February 2011
    • Genre: Zombie apocalypse fun slush
    • Why I picked it up: It’s by John Green!! (I donated $20 to the P4A for this, but you can read it here).
    • Rating: 4 stars
    • Challenges: 100+
    • My Thoughts:
      • I don’t know if my rating counts for this because it isn’t your typical published book. This was written to be an intentionally-bad zombie apocalypse novella, but I still found it a fun and enjoyable read. It obviously isn’t quite up there with the rest of John’s works, but it is fun and gory and light but heavy and intelligent. If you’re a fan of John or zombies I would recommend this book, for sure.