Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera

71%

20 Critic Reviews

A novel, even a novel by so engagé a writer as Kundera, must be judged in terms of art, and not of its moral, social or political weight. There is too much spilt politics in The Unbearable Lightness for its own good. What is remarkable, however, is that a work so firmly rooted in its time has not dated.
-Guardian

Synopsis

The Unbearable Lightness of Being is a story of irreconcilable love and infidelities in which Milan Kundera addresses himself to the nature of twentieth-century 'Being', offering a wide range of brilliant and amusing philosophical speculations. First published in 1984, Kundera's masterly novel encompasses the extremes of comedy and tragedy and was at once hailed by critics as a contemporary classic.
 

About Milan Kundera

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One of the foremost contemporary Czech writers, Kundera is a novelist, poet, and playwright. His play The Keeper of the Keys, produced in Czechoslovakia in 1962, has long been performed in a dozen countries. His first novel, The Joke (1967), is a biting satire on the political atmosphere in Czechoslovakia in the 1950s. It tells the story of a young Communist whose life is ruined because of a minor indiscretion: writing a postcard to his girlfriend in which he mocks her political fervor.The Joke has been translated into a dozen languages and was made into a film, which Kundera wrote and directed. His novel Life Is Elsewhere won the 1973 Prix de Medicis for the best foreign novel. Kundera has been living in France since 1975. His books, for a long time suppressed in his native country, are once again published.The Unbearable Lightness of Being (1984), won him international fame and was a successful English-language film. In this work Kundera moves toward more universal and philosophically tinged themes, thus transforming himself from a political dissident into a writer of international significance.
 
Published February 1, 1984 by Harper & Row. 314 pages
Genres: Literature & Fiction, Education & Reference, Arts & Photography. Fiction
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Critic reviews for Unbearable Lightness of Being
All: 20 | Positive: 15 | Negative: 5

Kirkus

Above average
Reviewed by Anonymoius on Apr 25 1984

...the book generates little accumulating power: the oddness of its format requires great reader-patience--a patience that's rewarded only with evasive suggestion. And though Kundera's seriousness and natural grace are everywhere, they are finally beetled by the feckless anemia of the collage/pastiche approach.

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Guardian

Above average
Reviewed by John Banville on May 01 2004

A novel, even a novel by so engagé a writer as Kundera, must be judged in terms of art, and not of its moral, social or political weight. There is too much spilt politics in The Unbearable Lightness for its own good. What is remarkable, however, is that a work so firmly rooted in its time has not dated.

Read Full Review of Unbearable Lightness of Being | See more reviews from Guardian

Guardian

Good
Reviewed by John Banville on Apr 30 2004

There is too much spilt politics in The Unbearable Lightness for its own good. What is remarkable, however, is that a work so firmly rooted in its time has not dated.

Read Full Review of Unbearable Lightness of Being | See more reviews from Guardian

NY Journal of Books

Good
Reviewed by Lorayne Burns on Jan 12 2010

These techniques in presentation serve to provide all the charm a reader could want in this entertaining book/series that is thought provoking without being ponderous.

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The Independent

Good
Reviewed by ANDREW WILLIAMS on Jan 23 2009

This is a shamelessly clever book – at times a little cold – but exhilaratingly subversive and funny. Kundera takes you by the scruff of the neck and shakes you pitilessly

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People

Good
on May 14 1984

This is a strikingly original novel about a Czech surgeon who has many women, but despite himself falls in love with a pretty waitress from a small town...Unbearable Lightness is full of telling details, truths large and small, to which just about every reader will respond. Few American writers, alas, even try to write books like this.

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Jacksonville.com

Good
Reviewed by Ally Zubiria on Apr 20 2005

Kundera has written an emotionally intense piece of literature that sets the groundwork for the reader to evaluate which should be chosen: the burden of heaviness or the unbearable lightness of being.

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Curled Up

Excellent
Reviewed by Heather Darcy on Jan 28 2014

The Unbearable Lightness of Being isn't driven by plot but by the incredible richness of the main characters’ inner lives. Partly philosophical and part poetry, Kundera's work is a treasure meant to be read again and again.

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http://www.bookdrum.com

Above average
Reviewed by davidloftus59 on Jan 28 2014

Reading the book for a third or fourth time, a quarter century after its writing (and nearly a half century after the historical event that is the fulcrum of its structure -- the 1968 Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia), I can appreciate its formal elements even more.

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Before It's News

Below average
Reviewed by Sue Jackson on Apr 29 2014

I wasn’t thrilled with all of the cheating male characters in the novel and struggled a bit to wade through some of the complicated prose (sometimes you just read a sentence and think, “huh?”), but ultimately, I am glad I stuck with it and read it.

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The Blue Bookcase

Above average
Reviewed by Susanna Allred on May 29 2013

The Unbearable Lightness of Being is a graceful, nuanced work. In spite of its thoroughly post-modern sensibility, it unifies its quartet's geographic and sensual wanderings by setting up and exploring paralleled thematic opposites...the characterization of all four remains vivid, touching, and life-like.

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Literary Exploration

Good
Reviewed by Michael Kitto on Feb 04 2013

From the very start you while see the gorgeous poetic prose within Milan Kundera’s writing and the unique plot concept will initially drive this book for the reader...In the end it’s just one of those books that sounds a little weird and unappealing but is really worth reading.

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Shelf Love

Above average
Reviewed by Teresa on Sep 23 2013

...it’s a rich book, that turns in on itself again and again, never letting itself get pinned down, even when the author himself pipes in with his interpretations. Before discussing the book, I could see bits of what Kundera was trying to do, but talking about it enabled me to see even more—and to be more impressed with it.

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https://suite101.com

Good
Reviewed by Christina Donahue on Jan 28 2014

Kundera is a very stylistic writer, with an amazing eye for detail and emotion. His characters are as multi-faceted as they come and the story is certainly a page turner..his world of average people whom he places in average situations will leave you wishing the 314-page novel was 314 pages longer.

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The Mookse and the Gripes

Above average
Reviewed by y Trevor Berrett on Nov 15 2008

...I truly mean that I did not experience as much satisfaction while reading this book as I usually do when reading other books. It was engaging, well written, provocative — not in the least unbearable — but for some reason it didn’t satisfy me as much in the act of reading.

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http://bookreviews.nabou.com

Above average
Reviewed by Eugene Knight on Jan 28 2014

The novel is an attempt to identify what makes us need companionship in life so badly, trying to understand the relationships between the conflicting desires that humans possess and act upon...If you read deep enough into this novel you’ll repeatedly think, ‘he’s talking about me’.

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In the Next Room

Above average
Reviewed by Meghan on Mar 27 2011

...is fairly consistent with Kundera's other works, and if anything I found it easier to follow. That said, it's certainly not straightforward...I really do love the way Kundera words things, the way he captures and crystallizes human motivations and desires so clearly but as a novel The Unbearable Lightness of Being just didn't quite work for me.

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The Cascade

Above average
Reviewed by Alex Watkins on Sep 01 2011

...is an exemplary illustration of the deftness and wit which has brought me wholeheartedly into his camp. The novel explores relationships, human desire, and the capacity for love...but it’s not just all hearts and flowers – he also delves into the nuances of philosophy, music and literary composition.

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Escapism Through Books

Below average
Reviewed by Becky on Mar 30 2013

I pretty much hated it from the first page...I am a character reader. I need characters that I can identify with, that I can understand, maybe like... but these were none of those things. I don't know them, I don't understand them, I don't identify with them in any way... and I don't want to.

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Steph Su Reads

Above average
Reviewed by Steph on Apr 27 2012

Perhaps the thing to say about THE UNBEARABLE LIGHTNESS OF BEING is that it is an incredible experience that cannot be fully understood and appreciated in just one go. Perhaps what astounded me most about this book was how nuanced the characters are.

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77%

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Rated the book as 4.5 out of 5

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