I have a friend.  She came from the Czech Republic .  We got acquainted through playing racquet ball.  After she got her PhD in Economics, she moved to Washington D.C. to work for IMF (International Monetary Fund). 


She was the one who introduced me to the book “The Unbearable Lightness of Being” by Milan Kundera.  Whenever I saw the book lying on the bookshelf, I would think of her.  I used to visit her whenever I was in D.C.  About 1 1/2 years ago, she moved to Ethiopia , teaching Economics at the Addis Ababa University .  It is hard to keep in touch and I miss her terribly, especially the games with her. 


I decided to write a review of the book for our friendship.


I actually watched the movie before I read the book.  I always feel reading the book more rewarding than watching the movie for its deep, beautiful and philosophical prose.  What is Kundera trying to portray as the unbearable lightness of being?  My interpretation of the lightness is all the trivial ramifications around us in that our lives transpire only once.  In any particular moment in time, our action is so transitory that it is light and meaningless.  The weight is, however, alluding to the responsibility in each and every choice and action, which, over time, leads to everlasting consequences regardless of life’s transience.  In the story, the lightness in love (soul) versus the heaviness in sex (body) and the burden that comes with love were conveyed. 


In the book, it mentioned “Einmal ist keinmal”: whatever happened once may as well have never happened at all.  Existence seems to lose it substance in a world where lives are shaped by irrevocable choices and fortuitous events.  That said, should we live a life free of weight since life is so light, so insignificant, that it is unbearable?  It makes me wonder.  So did all the revolutions make sense?  Does it make sense to go against the Devil itself?  Each individual may mean nothing, but overall, I do think that it carries weight by the actions we take and the history we create.  As I read this book, I though of what Macbeth was saying “To be or not to be, that is the question”.  I also get that sense of familiarity reading this book as I think of how I feel towards Taiwan and how Taiwanese struggle for personal identity, individuality and sovereignty.  In her book, the characters seek individuality as Prague struggles to be recognized as an independent entity under the invasion of Russia .


As what Tereza, as wells as others, had done risking their lives for Prague, taking photographs showing the brutality of invasion from Russian tanks and subversion, they, nevertheless, helped the Russians to overpower the revolt.  What many people tried to claim their ignorance about what Communism entailed is no excuse as was intelligently stated by Kundera: “Whether they knew or did not know is not the main issue; the main issue is whether a man is innocent because he didn’t know.  Is a fool on the throne relieved of all responsibility merely because he is a fool?”


You can seek to live a life in lightness, selfishly uncommitted and without purpose, or seek to live a life in heaviness, committed but burdened with fight for justice, adherence to principles and sacrifice for the greater good.


If you are looking for a light reading, this novel is surely not.  This is a book about the life experiences of four people; each carries lightness and weight in his or her life.  The entire theme surrounds on the philosophical elements of how life is inevitably unbearably light, but at the same time, carries weight if you find meaning and purpose in life.


I hope that you like reading this book as I did.  Though it was kind of hard to read for me as it triggered several emotions of mine, which I tend to try to ignore as it makes me feel unbearable.


** 版權所有 - Elisa


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