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The Unbearable Lightness of Being

The Unbearable Lightness of Being


by Milan Kundera

The Unbearable Lightness of Being Language and Communication Quotes

How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Part.Chapter.Paragraph). We used Michael Henry Heim's translation.

Quote #1

And so the man who called to her was simultaneously a stranger and a member of the secret brotherhood. He called to her in a kind voice, and Tereza felt her soul rushing up to the surface through her blood vessels and pores to show itself to him. (2.8.6)

Tomas's call to Tereza ends up being a sort of miscommunication in itself. He makes her feel unique and individual, yet she is one of many women for him.

Quote #2

For the first few seconds, she was afraid he would throw her out because of the crude noises she was making, but then he put his arms around her. She was grateful to him for ignoring her rumbles, and kissed him passionately, her eyes misting. Before the first minute was up, they were making love. She screamed while making love. She had a fever by then. She had come down with the flu. The nozzle of the hose supplying oxygen to the lungs was stuffed and red.

When she traveled to Prague a second time, it was with a heavy suitcase. (2.12.3-4)

Notice that this is the second time we've gotten the story of Tereza's first sexual encounter with Tomas. First it was through Tomas's eyes, and now we see the same situation through Tereza's. Kundera makes a point to use the same words and phrases in certain key places. For example, through both Tomas's and Tereza's eyes, the suitcase retains its weight. Consider this in light of the section called "Words Misunderstood," when the narrator talks about the different motifs in the lives of Sabina and Franz. Sabina and Franz are at odds because words mean different things to them; but Tereza and Tomas are on the same page. This small example – the weight of Tereza's suitcase – shows that they both associate Tereza's arrival in Prague with weight and responsibility. Compare this to the stories that we see through Sabina's and then through Franz's eyes, and you'll see much less repetition of words and phrases for that ill-matched couple.

Quote #3

That was not the thing to say. A man with artificially waved gray hair pointed a long index finger at her. "That's no way to talk. You're all responsible for what happened. You, too. How did you oppose the Communist regime? All you did was paint pictures. ..." (3.4.2)

But this is how Sabina opposed the regime – through her art. For her, painting is a mode of communication. Of course, for Franz, art (in the form of music) is a way of blocking out communication, it is "the anti-word." Yet another instance of misunderstood words between them.

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