The Unbearable Lightness of Being is a 1984 novel hailed by many as a modern classic. It is set in the Spring Prague period of 1968 and what the characters in the novel describe as a time of Russian occupation of Prague and the Czech Republic as a whole.
Reading the reviews on GoodReads there seems to be a consensus that the plot and characters in the novel are underdeveloped and that the purpose of this novel is a philosophical one. I would agree that the plot was lacking but I found the characters and the setting quite interesting. That’s the part of the book I enjoyed.
What annoyed me was in fact the attempts to make this novel a philosophical one whereby a narrator reflecting on the characters and their circumstances inserted itself into the story and ultimately, for me, just detracted from the parts that made the book enjoyable. The references to Friedrich Nietzsche’s concept of eternal recurrence were boring and out of place. I think if you’re going to use a novel to expound your philosophical ideas then write the story, plot, and characters so that they show us this idea instead of interrupting it to try to squash the idea into it.
I don’t have anything against the philosophical novel but I really need it to be well woven into the story otherwise you might as well write a non fiction piece. Show me, don’t tell me. That’s why I read fiction.
The setting and the characters were definitely unique and I enjoyed the perspective. On a whole I gave the book 2 stars though because upon reading the last page I just felt it could have been done better. I would love to hear what others thought of this book so if you’ve read it please share your thoughts.