The unbearable lightness of love and growing up

Picture from the internet

I was in my sister’s room when I saw a copy of Milan Kundera’s modern classic The Unbearable Lightness of Being  hiding quietly on her bookshelf. The black bowler hat on the cover drew me in, so I picked it up and smiled.

This book brings back memories of high school sitting in Mr. Bellew’s over sized classroom. My teacher was a Kiwi and his accent was  pretty undecipherable (much like trying to understand Friedrich Nietzsche at seventeen.)  But I tried, because that’s the only thing a kid knows how to do. I went to my bed and starting reading it again.  Aside from writing papers, I realized I didn’t remember much about Kundera.  Or even love, one of his central themes. I was only a teenager.

Re-reading a book is like seeing yourself grow up. I imagine that’s how life after death feels like, sitting on God’s couch with a box of popcorn. Watching and being amused at your own innocence, it’s like you no longer are.

The pages are familiar, and I flip through them like a child, curious and hungry for that story from high school. Set in communist Czechoslovakia between 1968 and 1980, the complicated tale of Tomas and Tereza, of love and sex, of lightness and heaviness, of fidelity and philandering, had not aged. I, on the other hand, had. I am twenty one now.

It’s a conceptual book to read with lots of philosophical and political underpinnings. But I recommend Unbearable Lightness of Being if you’re like me, a young woman trying to understand what it means to love with unconditional shades of grey.

Some quotes:

– We can never know what to want because living only one life we can neither compare it to our previous lives nor perfect it in our lives to come

– The heavier the burden, the closer our lives come to the earth, the more real and truthful they become

– Beauty hides behide the scenes of the May Day parade. If we want to find it, we must demolish the scenery

– Flirting is a promise of sexual intercourse without guarantee

– The individual “I” is what differs from the common stock, that is what cannot be guessed at or calculated, what must be unveiled, uncovered, conquered

– Two kinds of womanizers: The lyrical womanizer — what they seek in women is themselves, their ideal and since an ideal is by definition something that can never be found, they are disappointed again and again

The epic womanizer — the man projects no subjective ideal on women and since everything interests him, nothing can disappoint him

– Before he could start wondering what she would be like when they made love, he loved her.

– He had no desire to uncover anything in Tereza. She had come to him uncovered

– Love begins with a metaphor, which is to say, love begins at the point when a woman enters her first word into our poetic memory


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