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The narrator admits that he sometimes has the feeling that Tereza's life is a mere of her mother's.
When Tereza's mother was four, her father (Tereza's grandfather) said that she was as beautiful as Raphael's Madonna. Tereza's mother, from then on, sat around and thought about which paintings she was like.
When it was time for her to marry, she had to choose from nine suitors. Each one had a different strong suit (the strongest, the richest, the handsomest, etc.). Tereza's mother went with the most manly of the nine, not because he was manly, but because he had gotten her pregnant. Of course, at that point, all other eight suitors looked like better choices.
Tereza's mother was distraught to find herself getting older and less attractive. To make herself feel better, she began an affair with an unmanly man who as far as we can tell was not such a great guy.
This left Tereza and her manly father pretty much to their own devices. Tereza's father was brash and arrested by the Communist police for his outspoken political opinions. He ended up in prison and then died, which left Tereza alone with her mother.