December 13, 2010
The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera
This is a title which I have heard a lot about during my college days. Then there was a fad for philosophy, and the modern kind at that too. In this genre, Kundera was what many read, and quoted. At that time too, I started reading this book, but kept it off for later as I could not relate to what the characters were experiencing.
The book talks of a doctor who has been living life on his terms, a divorcee with many girlfriends, but to each of whom he has been very careful never to be too close or dependent. He says its more of a physical relationship which he enjoys and wishes to keep it just that way. A woman who he meets on one of his official trips, walks into his life unexpectedly, and causes a change in his status, thinking and feelings. But, even as he is living with her, he still strives to keep his individual space where he enjoys afternoons of pleasure with his previous girlfriends. The book moves through phases where the woman is the one who is needy for attention, to how the man realizes the unknown attachment which he has with this woman and he moves countries to follow her. Apart from the relationship and feelings which are so well portrayed, there is a background of the occupation of Czech and how many citizens of the country flee to other European countries in search of a better and moreover a safer environment for a family life.
As the author explains, the protagonist, Tomaz, is not a womaniser in the sense of the word as of this day. He has a fascination for the different, and he does not necessarily always look to take to bed the beautiful women. A woman taller than him, with a queer expression might also catch his fancy. He has a habit of trying to determine what would be a woman's expressions while making love, and when these expressions he can not determine, then he is turned on by this unknown. I am unsure whether this would be called womanising or not. But as per the authors explanation, this would be more of a foray into the unknown and the subjects being women alone. Tomaz does not allow any of these women to cast a deep impression on his mind. That part of his mind is solely reserved for Tereza, his partner.
As one reads the book, we get the feeling that Tomaz is trying to draw sense of his feelings regarding Tereza and how her feelings and moods affect him. I think its worth a read for sure, and it surely does put one in a thinking mode too.