Albert Kundera's The Unbearable Lightness Of Being

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The Unbearable Lightness Of Being is constructed around the dichotomy of lightness and weight, a paradox that cannot easily be resolved. Lightness as described in this novel is accepting a certain lack of ultimate meaning in life, and living for momentary beauty. In contrast, weight is looking for a deeper meaning in life. Kundera experiments with four different characters to convey this contrast. He creates two couples, each couple consisting of a ‘light’ and ‘heavy’ individual, and by comparing them, he is able to explore their reach into areas such as love, politics, art, and psychology.

The book starts by establishing its philosophical context and challenges Nietzsche’s concept of eternal return: the idea that the universe has been recurring, and will continue to recur for an infinite number of times. Nietzsche thought eternal return was das schwerste Gewicht, or ‘the heaviest weight’, and said the endless repetition of life is what gives our lives a sense of weight. This concept is opposed by an interpretation of the German proverb einmal ist keinmal, meaning whatever happens only once might as well not happen at all. Each person has only one life to live and the events within life also occur only once and never again, thus the ‘lightness’ of being. Once we understand the philosophical implications of lightness and heaviness, Kundera is at liberty to explore how they play out in individual characters and the lives they lead.

Tomas is a man of lightness. In the
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