A young woman is in love with a successful surgeon, a man torn between his love for her and his incorrigible womanizing. His mistress, a free-spirited artist, lives her life as a series of betrayals–while her other lover, earnest, faithful, and good, stands to lose everything because of his noble qualities. In a world where lives are shaped by irrevocable choices and fortuitous events, and everything occurs but once, existence seems to lose its substance, its weight. Hence we feel “the unbearable lightness of being.
A personal essay, a novel, a creative nonfiction, The Unbearable Lightness of Being is a difficult book to define. It’s about a woman who is in love with a man who cannot be faithful, about a man who wants to live lightly yet cannot shake off his attachment to his wife, about the man’s paramour, about the man in love with the paramour, and a dog who just wants to love and live. It’s also about how the upheavals of war on the lives of ordinary men and women. It’s about the philosophical principles of living lightly or heavily. Sometimes surreal, and strange, penned by Kundera’s masterful writing, this book is an unforgettable read.
This is one of those times I am glad that my book club bullied me into reading a book I normally would not read. Though for me the philosophical questions are no longer quandaries that need to be resolved, for I guess I have come to terms a long time ago on the moral paths I must take. I believe that whether one thing will happen only once and always for the first time, or whether they are doomed to recur, my lightness of being will stem from the fact of doing no harm to my fellows, of avoiding malicious actions, and, more than that, actively working to make a better Earth for all, to glorify God.
I must caution animal lovers with a soft heart, though. There is a section in the book that made me ill from grief. I don’t know what it will do to you. But maybe you will be pleasantly surprised, as I was, to discover a strong sentiment about the importance of protecting animals. I’m glad a famous author pointed out the inhumanity and destructiveness of humanity’s cruelty to animals. The heroine’s love for her dog which was selfless and which brings comfort was illustrated to contrast with her needy and selfish human love for her husband.
“True human goodness, in all its purity and freedom, can come to the fore only …towards those who are at its mercy: animals.”
I cannot pinpoint individual elements in the book that made me like it. Why would I care to read about an unfaithful husband and the martyr wife? I’ve got so many books to bother about one that’s full of symbolism that I’d probably have to read it a hundred times to fully understand it. But this book got to me.