Review: The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera

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.the unbearable lightness of being by milan kundera

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.

 

lilolia review rating 2 stars ok

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TBR Chronicles #10

 

As the end of the year swiftly approaches, it’s got me thinking about my reading challenge and whether or not I’m going to manage to complete it in time.  For this reason, I went over the shorter novels on my TBR list in the hopes of knocking out a few novellas to get my numbers up.  I know that many of you have had no problem whatsoever reading far beyond your reading goals, congratulations to you!  If any of you, like me, are missing those last few books then I recommend a few novellas!

Here are a few of the short novels I have earmarked for reading:

The Fall by Albert Camus

The Fall

I picked this one because many readers say that it is in fact The Fall that is Camus’ best novel and not The Stranger so I’m intrigued.  At 92 pages you’ll have no problems finishing this one quickly.

“Jean-Baptiste Clamence is a soul in turmoil. Over several drunken nights he regales a chance acquaintance with his story. From this successful former lawyer and seemingly model citizen a compelling, self-loathing catalogue of guilt, hypocrisy and alienation pours forth. “The Fall” (1956) is a brilliant portrayal of a man who has glimpsed the hollowness of his existence. But beyond depicting one man’s disillusionment, Camus’s novel exposes the universal human condition and its absurdities – and our innocence that, once lost, can never be recaptured.” (GoodReads)

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson

The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde

I’ve always wanted to read this classic and at 96 pages there’s no reason not to.

“Dr Jekyll has discovered the ultimate drug. A chemical that can turn him into something else. Suddenly, he can unleash his deepest cruelties in the guise of the sinister Hyde. Transforming himself at will, he roams the streets of fog-bound London as his monstrous alter-ego.” (GoodReads)

Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse

Siddhartha

This is another classic I’ve been meaning to get to.  This one is 160 pages but still doable if you’re short on time.

“In the novel, Siddhartha, a young man, leaves his family for a contemplative life, then, restless, discards it for one of the flesh. He conceives a son, but bored and sickened by lust and greed, moves on again. Near despair, Siddhartha comes to a river where he hears a unique sound. This sound signals the true beginning of his life—the beginning of suffering, rejection, peace, and, finally, wisdom.” (GoodReads)

Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino

Invisible Cities

This sounds a fantastic read and at 165 pages you’ll be through it in no time.

“Cities, like dreams, are made of desires and fears, even if the thread of their discourse is secret, their rules are absurd, their perspectives deceitful, and everything conceals something else.” — from Invisible Cities

In a garden sit the aged Kublai Khan and the young Marco Polo — Mongol emperor and Venetian traveler. Kublai Khan has sensed the end of his empire coming soon. Marco Polo diverts his host with stories of the cities he has seen in his travels around the empire: cities and memory, cities and desire, cities and designs, cities and the dead, cities and the sky, trading cities, hidden cities. As Marco Polo unspools his tales, the emperor detects these fantastic places are more than they appear.”  (GoodReads)

Identity by Milan Kundera

Identity

This book is new to my TBR and the concept of identity is interesting to me so at only 168 pages it seems worth it to give it a go.

“There are situations in which we fail for a moment to recognize the person we are with, in which the identity of the other is erased while we simultaneously doubt our own. This also happens with couples–indeed, above all with couples, because lovers fear more than anything else “losing sight” of the loved one.  With stunning artfulness in expanding and playing variations on the meaningful moment, Milan Kundera has made this situation–and the vague sense of panic it inspires–the very fabric of his new novel. Here brevity goes hand in hand with intensity, and a moment of bewilderment marks the start of a labyrinthine journey during which the reader repeatedly crosses the border between the real and the unreal, between what occurs in the world outside and what the mind creates in its solitude.  Of all contemporary writers, only Kundera can transform such a hidden and disconcerting perception into the material for a novel, one of his finest, most painful, and most enlightening. Which, surprisingly, turns out to be a love story.” (GoodReads)

 

Have you read any of these already?  If so, share your thoughts with us.