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The Unbearable Lightness of Being

The Unbearable Lightness of Being


by Milan Kundera

The Unbearable Lightness of Being Power Quotes

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

Quote #1

He had complete control over her sleep: she dozed off at the second he chose.


Once, when he had just lulled her to sleep but she had gone no farther than dream's antechamber and was therefore still responsive to him, he said to her, "Good-bye, I'm going now." "Where?" she asked in her sleep. "Away," he answered sternly. "Then I'm going with you," she said, sitting up in bed. "No, you can't. I'm going away for good," he said, going out into the hall. (1.6.5-7)

Here we see the control that Tomas has over Tereza, both emotionally and physically. What do you make of his attempt to leave Tereza while she slept? Was he really going to leave? Is he just curious to see what she'll do?

Quote #2

Photography was nothing but a way of getting at "something higher" and living beside Tomas. (2.25.5)

We see that Tereza feels herself inferior to Tomas in many ways. In order to live beside him, she first has to elevate herself to his intellectual and cultural level.

Quote #3

Thinking in Zurich of those days, she no longer felt any aversion to the man. The word "weak" no longer sounded like a verdict. Any man confronted with superior strength is weak, even if he has an athletic body like Dubcek's. The very weakness that at the time had seemed unbearable and repulsive, the weakness that had driven Tereza and Tomas from the country, suddenly attracted her. She realized that she belonged among the weak, in the camp of the weak, in the country of the weak, and that she had to be faithful to them precisely because they were weak and gasped for breath in the middle of sentences. (2.26.4)

Tereza's attraction to the weak is a form of the vertigo that the narrator discusses in Part 2. Her desire to submit herself completely to Tomas is a manifestation of this tendency towards self-degradation. It's interesting that Sabina, who would on all other accounts seem to be the complete opposite of Tereza, shares the same desire for self-degradation. This shared, female desire is expressed in the scene in which they take nude pictures of each other.

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