February Book of the Month: The Unbearable Lightness of Being

The only relationship that can make both partners happy is one in which sentimentality has no place and neither partner makes any claim on the life and freedom of the other.
— Milan Kundera, The Unbearable Lightness of Being

The theme of the month this year is Love: Reality vs. Fiction. So, we thought it would be appropriate to introduce you to a book which looks at love without filtering out all the unpleasant, gritty, in-between bits.

In The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Milan Kundera (one of the most brutally honest writers I’ve ever read) traces the lives of two couples during the Soviet occupation of Prague, during the late 1960’s. The novel deep-heartedly charts their struggles against communism, their pasts, their lovers, and themselves. This magnificent novel looks at love with a sober eye and explores the connections and divergences between love expressed through the mind, the body, the soul.

I first read this book when I was in 10th grade, after my first “love/relationship” broke me so thoroughly, that there are still pieces missing 10 years later. I opened the book, and between fevered naps and cold compresses, I read The Unbearable Lightness of Being.

I finished it, and then I read it again. My first copy of the book is pictured, it has been worn down and patched back together again multiple times with different kinds of tape. Kundera had created a balance between my romance-addled understanding of love and relationships, which had then been fueled mainly by Jane Austen and John Hughes movies. Looking back, I don’t think I understood too much of what he was talking about when it came to lust and love, because that understand comes even more now, upon rereading it at 24, having been in a relationship for the last 5 years.


Nonetheless, his rational romanticism of relationships created a certain logical boundary when it came to my understanding of love made me a more level-headed cynic, which, in turn, made me abandon my fantasy of being saved by a knight on a white horse. Somehow, Kundera made me start saving myself. With every rereading, I was slowly cured of the damsel-in-distress fantasy us women grow up to wait for.

The loves in this book are real loves, beautiful, selfish, exhilarating, boring, manipulative, awkward. There’s no agenda to write a strong woman, a weak woman, a vile man, an honest man. It’s just…people. Just people. Messy, contradicting themselves, living how they can, yearning for things they do not actually want.

Funnily enough, I now live part-time in Prague. I think I thought myself into living here, with a Czech man, because of this book.

Making The Unbearable Lightness of Being our book of the month seemed like the perfect fit, it was already on my bedside table, it fit our theme of the month, and it is just as raw and honest as we aim to be on TOC.

Enjoy, and don’t forget to let us know your thoughts about it!

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