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The Unbearable Lightness of Being

The Unbearable Lightness of Being

Quotes

Quote #1

This reconciliation with Hitler reveals the profound moral perversity of a world that rests essentially on the nonexistence of return, for in this world everything is pardoned in advance and therefore everything cynically permitted. (1.1.8)

In the first two chapters, Kundera establishes the philosophical premises of his novel. If everything in the world occurs once, we cannot pass judgment on it. Everything we experience in this one life would then have a certain lightness. If everything were to recur, only then would it attain weight and importance. Only then should we feel responsibility for our actions.

Quote #2

We can never know what to want, because, living only one life, we can neither compare it with our previous lives nor perfect it in our lives to come. (1.3.15)

Notice that things happen many times over the course of this novel, because we hear the same event from different perspectives. Additionally, the narrator later claims that these characters are his own unrealized possibilities. By exploring what could have been, by comparing his own choices with the other possibilities, the narrator is giving his own life weight and experiencing eternal return.

Quote #3

The two of them got into his car, which was parked in front of the house, and drove to the station. There he claimed the suitcase (it was large and enormously heavy) and took it and her home. (1.4.5)

Kundera reiterates the suitcase's weight many times throughout the novel. Tereza brings weight into Tomas's life, disrupting his otherwise light lifestyle. By asking for commitment and love, she asks him to abandon lightness in favor of weight.

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