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The Unbearable Lightness of Being

The Unbearable Lightness of Being


by Milan Kundera

The Unbearable Lightness of Being Life, Consciousness, Existence Quotes

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

Quote #4

Early in the novel that Tereza clutched under her arm when she went to visit Tomas, Anna meets Vronsky in curious circumstances: they are at the railway station when someone is run over by a train. At the end of the novel, Anna throws herself under a train. This symmetrical composition-the same motif appears at the beginning and at the end-may seem quite "novelistic" to you, and I am willing to agree, but only on condition that you refrain from reading such notions as "fictive," "fabricated," and "untrue to life" into the word "novelistic." Because human lives are composed in precisely such a fashion. (2.11.3)

This is a hidden justification of the narrator's attempt to use a fictional novel and fictional characters to explore real ideas. Just because my characters are fake, he seems to be saying, doesn't mean that they aren't a completely accurate reflection of real life. His novel may be intricately structured and full of artistry – but so is life, he says.

Quote #5

Sabina said, "Unintentional beauty. Yes. Another way of putting it might be 'beauty by mistake.' Before beauty disappears entirely from the earth, it will go on existing for a while by mistake. 'Beauty by mistake'-the final phase in the history of beauty."

And she recalled her first mature painting, which came into being because some red paint had dripped on it by mistake. Yes, her paintings were based on "beauty by mistake," and New York was the secret but authentic homeland of her painting. (3.5.12-13)

Here we see a connection between beauty and fortuity. With Tereza, we saw that our sense of beauty is what allows us to recognize fortuitous occurrences. Now, with Sabina, we see that fortuity is often the source of beauty.

Quote #6

He was about to offer them a few francs for the secret address when suddenly he felt he lacked the strength to do it. His grief had broken him utterly. He understood nothing, had no idea what had happened; all he knew was that he had been waiting for it to happen ever since he met Sabina. What must be must be. Franz did not oppose it. (3.9.14)

Look at the way Kundera weaves the two storylines together with a common philosophy. We have seen Tomas struggle with the idea of es muss sein with regard to his relationship with Tereza, and now Franz applies the same idea – what must be – to his relationship with Sabina.

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