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The Unbearable Lightness of Being

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What are you supposed to expect, with a title like that?

This is the book my fabulous book club chose this month. I had honestly never heard of it before. The blurb just starts out “A young woman in love with a man torn between his love for her and his incorrigible womanizing; one of his mistresses and her humbly faithful lover–these are the two couples whose story is told in this masterful novel.”

When i read that in the bookstore, I said, “Oh goody! It’s a book about sex!”

Well, that idea was killed on the first page, and I was upset.

Until I read a little further.

Masterful, yeah. And a few other words i haven’t thought of yet.

My favorite parts were how he addresses ideological movements, and the smallness of individuals in the face of large forces.

His discusison of Oedipus had be pacing all night, chewing on all the ramifications and talking to myself.
Well, talking to my cat.
That’s why I have a cat. So I don’t talk to myself.

I finished it, and immediately wanted to read it again. That hasn’t happened in a long time.

The funny thing is, I read a book that was a parody of this one. It was a parody of other books too, but as I was reading this one, I kept thinking, this is familiar.

Then I remembered, It’s the sort of book that If On a Winter’s Night a Traveler was ripping on.

And I suddenly realized that If On a Winter’s Night A Traveler was a lot funnier than I had realized.

But hey, the point is, I love this book. I will not be selling it back.

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  • Kundera ist quite famous (as far as famous goes for an author) in Europe and this book is probably his best. I can remember I read it when I was about 14 – I didn’t understand a word;-)

  • This is exactly the point, Michelle, what is famous out of USA, (not to mention anything that is vaguely known, yet excellent), seems to be a black hole in the USA’s quite autistic culture. So I realy applaud your book club Murphy. I was planning to post some alerts to European and Middle Eastern literature, but who knows, being such an outsider, no one will believe me…
    By the way, I believe you won’t find anybody in Israel my country who does not know this book, at least the title…

  • P.S. It’s been used ad nausea by both journalists and politicians…

  • If there is “a black hole in the USA’s quite autistic culture” — rather ugly description, but nevermind — The Unbearable Lightness of Being is not in it. In a country this large, it’s hard to say “everyone” knows a given book, but I think it is safe to say the book is in most libraries and is known at some level by most readers, if not because they’ve read it then because they saw Philip Kaufman’s excellent film adaptation. (Even in “autistic” cultures people do not soon forget the sight of Lena Olin naked.)

    Some, like me, may even have read it more than once and heard the audiobook — which, by the way, is superb. It’s one of those rare intellectual novels that reads beautifully aloud.