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The paper looks at the meaning behind the title, assesses the complex relationship between love and politics, and finally asserts that a life without responsibility is actually no life at all.

Tereza and Tomas, Tomas and Sabina, Sabina and Franz, Franz and Marie-Claude–four people, four relationships. Milan Kundera’s masterful novel, The Unbearable Lightness of Being (1984), tells the interlocking stories of these four relationships, with a primary focus on Tomas, a man torn between his love for Tereza, his wife, and his incorrigible “erotic adventures,” particularly his long-time affair with the internationally noted painter, Sabina. The world of Kundera’s novel is one in which lives are shaped by irrevocable choices and fortuitous events. It is a world in which, because everything occurs only once and then disappears into the past, existence seems to lose its substance and weight. Coping with both the consequences of their own actions and desires and the intruding demands of society and the state, Kundera’s characters struggle to construct lives of individual value and lasting meaning.

A novel of ideas, a provocative look at the ways in which history impinges on individual lives, and a meditation on personal identity, The Unbearable Lightness of Being examines the imperfect possibilities of adult love and the ways in which free choice and necessity shape our lives. “What then shall we choose?” Kundera asks at the beginning of his novel. “Weight or lightness?” This international bestseller is his attempt to answer that question. And the answer is hinted at in the novel’s final scene, in which Tomas and Tereza find themselves in a small country hotel after a rare evening of dancing. When Tomas turns on the light in their room, “a large nocturnal butterfly” rises from the bedside lamp and circles the room in which they are alone with their happiness and their sadness.

assesses the complex relationship between love and politics, and finally asserts that a life without responsibility is actually no life at all

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