Milan Kundera is a leading contemporary writers. Author whose life was tormented by communism, Kundera left Czechoslovakia to seek refuge in France in the mid 70s. Most of his novels (The Joke, Life Is Elsewhere, Laughable Loves, The Book of Laughter and Forgetting, …) are novels that can be described as philosophical: they are all directed to people facing with history, politics, their destiny.
But perhaps the Unbearable Lightness of Being, which can be regarded as subject to philosophical analysis.
Summary of The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Kundera:
The Unbearable Lightness of Being mainly takes place in Prague in the years 1960 and 1970. It explores the artistic and intellectual life of Czech society during the communist period, from the Prague Spring to the Soviet invasion of 1968. The main characters are Tomas, a surgeon, his wife, Tereza, a photographer anguished by the infidelities of her husband, Sabina, Tomas’s mistress, a free-spirited artist, Franz, a Swiss university in love with Sabine.
Each of these four characters represents a metaphorical figure:
– Tomáš is ambiguous, both husband and fickle, that is, to use Kierkegaard’s ethical and aesthetic categories.
– Tereza is the moral, faithful woman devoted to her husband, calling for the pure love
– Sabina is lightness, as Kundera is the hallmark of modernity
– Franz, as Tereza, is gravity. This character is stuck in a bad marriage.
Analysis of the Unbearable Lightness of Being:
The richness of this novel is indisputable. Kundera talks with the Greek philosophers and Nietzsche.
Kundera and the eternal return:
Faced with Nietzsche defends the idea of eternal return, this theory raises the cyclical nature of the universe and its events, Kundera contrasts a unique view of history, each person has only one life to live, to seize the opportunities that do not represent most: being is light, it line, he escapes to individuals. This is the idea of eternal return introduces gravity in our lives.
Similarly, the eternal return suggests a static philosophy of history, while Kundera believes in a dynamic history, he believes in progress.
Kundera and love:
Against the romantic view, which sees the amorous encounter scheduled meeting of two beings, Kundera contrasts accidental conception of love. No one is intended to person depending on him. Love, in addition to be fortuitous, is fleeting and that is why the modern man gives too much importance.
Kundera and Politics:
The policy appears in the novel as a backdrop. Communism is closer to the Nazis in that share their ideology denial of individuality and the corollary of the primacy of the collective. Communism is synonymous with Kundera culture of silence, the emptiness of thought. The West is the contrary of freedom, the assertion of the individual.
Kundera and Sexuality:
Kundera presents sexuality in terms of lightness and weight. The characters are light and see erotic sexuality as a creative activity. Sexuality in Sabina is linked to the imagination, like art. Heavy characters (Tereza and Franz) associate sexuality with guilt. The sex is also associated with slight force in Thomas, while sex heavy refuse the power of seduction. The naked body is seen by Teresa as a source of horror and muscular body as useless by Franz.
Kundera and Being:
Kundera addresses this issue in terms of pre-Socratic Greek philosophers, including Parmenides. The latter sees the world divided into pairs of opposing entities: light / darkness, fineness / coarseness, positive entity on one side and negative on the other. According to Parmenides, the light is positive, the negative weight. Kundera argues instead that the lightness is ambiguous, both positive (freedom) and negative (weight of the emptiness of the life of Sabina libertine). This ambiguity is also the misfortune of Sabina. Life is a paradox insolvent. Witness the evolution of each character, which point to an opposite pole to their initial choice: Tomas finishes with his infidelities, Sabina realizes the emptiness of his existence is released from Tereza and Tomas Franz leaves his wife to live sex dreams and to pursue its political ideals. This reflects the paradox and the fact that individuals are free of their choice. Destiny is a chimera, human existence a precarious thing.