Published on November 20th, 2013 | by Holly Gilbert


Review: The Unbearable Lightness of Being

Cover of The Unbearable Lightness of Being Web

Book cover of Milan Kundera’s The Unbearable Lightness of Being, released in 1988

Despite the fact this book was written in 1988, its examination of the dynamics of human relationships takes an interesting stance on a timeless topic.

Milan Kundera looks at the intertwined lives of a handful of people as they navigate through their complexities, all of them trying to ascertain what they mean by true love.

The book is centred on the life of Tomas and his most significant others as he moves through his life: one wife Tereza and one of his many lovers, Sabine.

The sacrifices made, and the turns each of their loves took on account of their decisions offer an examination of human relationships, and what we consider to be happiness.

The differentiating views of each of the central characters with regards to how they view love in the world they find themselves in.

Tomas’ idea that love and sexuality exist as two totally different entities challenges the idea of infidelity within marriage, and sets the tone of the tumultuous tensions between him and his wife.


Sabine’s journey through the book sees her sexual emancipation, as each of her love affairs – including her trysts with Tomas – ends and diminishes into nothing, leaving her more alone than ever at the end of the book.

Feeling oppressed by her parochial ancestry and the artistic limitations imposed on her by the communist occupation in Czechoslovakia she makes a symbol of her father’s bowler hat destroying his puritan legacy.

The narrative trundles through the story with a complexity that echoes in the very veins of true human emotion.

With the philosophical comment accompanying the action as it happens provides a humour and nuanced commentary.

The bleak, blunt beauty in Kundera’s writing, emulates what we believe to be love between two people, and the infallible bond that can occur in one single moment.

The Unbearable Lightness of Being certainly promotes the notion of living in the moment, but also looks into the cataclysmic failings of those who choose to adopt that mindset.

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