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Day 6: “Es muss sein!”

January 6, 2010

I finished up “The Unbearable Lightness of Being” today. Oof. I had heard such amazing things about it but I just couldn’t get into it. Even when I told my boss what book I was reading, she raved about it. I just don’t get it. I understand that it is a philosophical novel…It’s purpose isn’t to make you warm and fuzzy but instead to challenge what you think and even the way you think. While I appreciated, the brief passages where the author departed momentarily from the story to talk about philosophy, I just don’t understand how Sabina, Tomas, Franz and Tereza are used as tools to demonstrate the philosophy. Perhaps it is because I cannot fathom the life that the majority of the characters live. It’s filled with infidelity, compromise (and not in a good way), despondence and apathy. They go from event to event in their lifetime with no real cause or direction. Tomas and Tereza were especially frustrating for me because neither of them were happy or satisified with the other, yet they would follow each other to foreign countries and tolerate infidelity. Not in the cute, “I’ll sacrafice my life for you because you are everything” sort of way…But in a begrudging manner. Since yesterday, I have only forced myself to read the last third of the book because, well, of this project. Not because I was in any way invested in the story itself.

I think, actually, I can pinpoint the part in the novel where I checked out. Tomas realized that Tereza’s feelings about his many illicit affairs was consuming her life, that she could not put it out of her head and couldn’t lie in bed next to a man that smelled like another woman. Instead of attempting to conceal his adultery or even stop to prevent hurting her, he tells her “I have taken care of everything” and sends her to the top of a hill…. Where there was a firing squad. He sent her to her death! And while she planned to follow his orders and waited for her end to come, she suddenly cannot go through with it and she felt ashamed that she couldn’t follow Tomas’ orders.


I guess, in an attempt to cling at the silver lining, I really did like some of the deeper philosophical questions that Milan Kundera brought forward through the narrative. I think my favorite concept of his was that of “poetic memory,” which he defined as a special area in our brain that records everything that charms and touches us and that makes our lives beautiful. There is our normal memory: it allows us to record the normal and inconsequential incidents that happen on a daily basis. But a poetic memory holds those instances where something really moved you.

(Unfortunately, Kundera, your book will not be stored in my poetic memory).

I feel like I am being very quick to critique the book when in fact there are a lot of passages that really touched me. And it did make me question a lot of my thought processes. Perhaps I should read it again when I have experienced a bit more of life and can better appreciate the actions of the cast without immediately being appalled.

The Tally!
Days left: 359
Books Read: 3

2 Comments leave one →
  1. alexa permalink
    January 7, 2010 3:29 pm

    you are not alone on this one, i never did finish it.
    this is quite an endeavor, good luck.

    • Christine permalink*
      January 7, 2010 5:16 pm

      I’m glad to hear I’m not alone! After all the rave reviews, I thought I might be the only one in the world. Thanks for reading!
      Cheers, Chrisitne.

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