Tag Archives: Milan Kundera

Bus Reads 5: Milan Kundera’s ‘The Unbearable Lightness of Being’

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I was interested to read this book, as a friend of mine from Uni is from the Czech Republic, and the novel is set in Czechoslovakia during the turbulent 1960s, so it allowed me to see something of her nation’s story as well as giving me an idea about where she is coming from on various issues. I had no preconceived notion about this work, so the book didn’t surpass or fall below expectations, but I was surprised just how much the book revolved around sex. Now, I don’t have an issue with this, but it would be nice to be warned when I’m reading it on a bus. I feel that people may be reading over my shoulder and think I’m reading something salacious. Anyway. I’ve read much worse since.

The way in which sex and love were presented through the thoughts and actions of the different characters was interesting and thought-provoking, with Tomas seeing it as nothing but another way of getting to know women better, and indeed being the only way to fully know their individual differences. This view can be understood somewhat in his profession as a surgeon, as this would precondition him to see people as the same, working in the same ways and as perhaps highly impersonal, whereas the act of sex allows him to see beyond the mechanics of the body into the personality of the individual. However, this view of sex and love as two distinct entities was something that seemed to run through the novel with all of the characters, and which begun to grate on me after a while. I can’t say that I condemned the characters for their actions and their views (that sounds a bit harsh), and indeed they were all likeable, believable figures, but I did see myself in moral and ideological opposition to them. For me, the two should be intimately intertwined, and so I was perhaps less able to empathise with the people in the novel than I have with other literary creations.

I did find the passages concerning the dog Karenin rather moving, though, which was a tad embarrassing on the bus, but Kundera did well to make Karenin as well-formed a character as the others in the text. Also, the sense of loneliness and desolation created worked well, and tinged much of the work with a quiet sadness that made it a poetic read in one respect. However, I think the biggest problem I had with the novel was that I missed the central philosophical tenets that underpinned the idea of ‘lightness’ and its opposition. Perhaps another read may be in order, in a quiet room with no distractions and a steaming mug of something rich. I feel that the book deserves a second chance, as I don’t think I’ve done it justice.

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New Books: June

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Yep- only four this month. I’ve realised that if I keep buying at my previous rate, I’ll run out of room to house them, and I also will never get around to reading them all. So only four.

  • Fyodor Dostoevsky –  Crime and Punishment     £1
  • Rudyard Kipling –  The Jungle Books     50p
  • Colette –  Gigi and The Cat     50p
  • Milan Kundera –  Slowness     99p

I am tempted to go into a long rant about Penguin and their odd way of packaging their classics, but I won’t. Suffice to say that ‘The Jungle Books’ were published in 1894 and 1895, and so shouldn’t qualify as a Modern Classic, and now are published in the black Penguin Classics range. Anyway- it’s a nice edition of it, which I’ve been looking for for a while.

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A few more new books, ‘Reclaimed Books part 2’… and MORRISSEY!

I’ve had just a few more books since my last book-buying update, and have also picked up another from my parents’:

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  • Milan Kundera-  The Unbearable Lightness of Being     25p
  • Jack Kerouac-  On the Road     25p
  • Hunter S. Thompson-  Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas     25p
  • James Doig (ed.)-  Australian Ghost Stories     £1

The last book in the photo, ‘In Cold Blood’ by Truman Capote, was the one I picked up from my parents. It’s the copy I had at A Level when we studied it in English, complete with my pencilled annotations on several sections. You may also notice that the first three books I had were insanely good value for money, especially considering one of these (‘On the Road’) is a book I mentioned in a previous blog as being one I’d really like to read.

Oh, and then there’s also this other new book that my other half purchased off Amazon and which arrived the other day…

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OH YES! Morrissey’s ‘Autobiography’ is here! We are both extremely put out that he only book signing he is doing has taken place in Sweden, as we couldn’t get over there to go to it, and can only hope he may decide to deign the UK with his presence in the near future. Also, the matter of who is reading the book first has been solved in two ways: I’ve already begun to read Joseph Conrad’s ‘Heart of Darkness’, and so want to read this first; my partner has been a lover of Moz since before I even knew who he was, and has found great comfort in his lyrics at many points of her life. Me: I just think his music is quite catchy and sounds good… However, the bit of the book I did have chance to gloss over is incredibly well written, and should make for an enjoyable read!

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