Title: The Unbearable Lightness of Being
Author: Milan Kundera
Narrator: Richmond Hoxie
Genre: Literary Fiction
Audio: 9.6 Hours
Year: 2012 (Originally published in 1984
Publisher: Harper Audio
Source: Review copy from publisher
Book Rating: 3.5/5
Audio Rating: 3.5/5
When Tomáš, despite his womanizing ways, falls in love with Tereza, he marries her. The two, along with their dog, Karenin, move to Zurich, away from the political turmoil in Prague. But when Tereza returns to Prage homesick, Tomáš follows, with drastic consequences.
Franz also falls in love – with Sabina, a favorite lover of Tomáš’ and decidedly not his wife, a woman he tries, and fails, to leave.
Through this myriad of relationships, The Unbearable Lightness of Being explores the political, philosophical, and artistic aspects of Czech society during the Prague Spring.
That summary might not be helpful (perhaps this was one I should have taken from the publisher). To me, this book is less about plot, and more about character and philosophy. I knew little about the Prague Spring going into this one, so I also enjoyed the history lesson.
Beautifully written and extremely insightful, The Unbearable Lightness of Being is not for the faint-hearted. It was a book that required a little more attention than usual, but one worth reading. It’s central idea – of lightness and heaviness – is one of those existential ideas that I almost grasp as I’m reading and then fail to ever understand again.
Hoxie sounds like Santa Claus. I mentioned this on twitter and a bunch of you thought that wouldn’t work. But it did. Remember, it’s not told in first person. In fact, the narrator specifically mentions that the characters are fictional so we can assume he is their creator. An omniscient Santa Claus-esque narrator actually works.
That said, this might be a better book in print simply because of its depth. There were passages I probably would have reread, or read more slowly, had I been reading rather than listening. Because of the way the story is told, there were also a few times I – embarrassingly – had to refer to Spark Notes to make sure I didn’t miss something.
I read this in college and I remember that I liked it at the time, but I also don’t remember much about it now. The plot is almost unrecognizable at this point, so I wonder if I didn’t get a lot of it. It seems like it lends itself to more than one reading. If I were able to get to it again, I would probably go the print version for the reasons you mentioned.
Oh – those ideas we almost grasp when we’re reading about them – and can’t ever understand again (or explain to anyone) – ACK! life is full of them, but they’re (sometimes) so much fun to wrestle with. (At least it seems like fun once the wrestling is done!)
I definitely find that books requiring pondering thought, insight, and sometimes a glimpse back is always better in print. In the best of scenarios, I grasp about 80% of an audio, and usually that is OK. But occasionally I find one that I miss enough details that I feel like the message is lost on me.
I have been so intimidated by this book for so long, and though I have wanted to read it, I haven’t gotten to it yet. It does sound really existential and illusive, but perhaps I will go with the print version instead of the audio. Then if I confuse myself, I can go back. Great review today!