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The Unbearable Lightness of Being

The Unbearable Lightness of Being


by Milan Kundera

Tereza Timeline and Summary

  • Tereza shows up at the train station to meet Tomas. She has a heavy suitcase with her. She goes home with Tomas, they make love, and she holds his hand all night. She gets the flu and has to stay with him until she has recovered.
  • One night, Tereza wakes up and tells Tomas about a dream she had. The content of her dream reveals the fact that she went snooping and read a letter written to Tomas by Sabina.
  • Tereza dreams that she is being forced, with many other women, to mark around a pool naked and singing, while Tomas shoots them and they fall into the water.
  • Tomas marries Tereza and buys her a puppy, whom she names Karenin, although the dog is female.
  • During the Russian invasion of Prague, Tereza takes photographs. When Tomas decides to emigrate to Zurich, Tereza goes with him.
  • Unable to deal with Tomas's cheating, Tereza returns to Prague.
  • We learn about Tereza's body issues, and her attempt to find her soul underneath her body.
  • We hear the history of Tereza's childhood, particularly her relationship with her mother.
  • Tereza always felt that her privacy was violated in her mother's home. She was ridiculed for feeling shame at her body.
  • We revisit the scene in which Tereza first met Tomas, and learn that he represented the world of intellectuals she longed to join. She was fully aware of the fortuities (i.e., lucky events) surrounding their meeting.
  • We revisit the scene where Tereza returns to Prague for Tomas, this time we see everything through Tereza's eyes.
  • The narrator discuses Tereza's sense of vertigo, and calls it her "longing to fall."
  • Tereza begins to be excited by the thought of Sabina's sexual fantasies. She decides to be friends with her husbands lover.
  • Tereza offers to take photographs of Sabina, and the two women end up taking nude shots of each other.
  • After Tereza went to Zurich with Tomas, she tries to get her photographs of the Russian invasion published. But no one is interested in political photographs.
  • Tereza chats with another female photographer in Zurich, who calls her "anachronistic" (i.e., old fashioned).
  • One day, in Zurich, Tereza receives a phone call of a woman looking for Tomas. She decides that she can't deal with his incessant affairs anymore, and so she returns to Prague with Karenin.
  • Tomas follows her back to Prague, and they resume life there.
  • One night, in bed, Tereza finds that Tomas's hair smells like another woman's groin.
  • Tereza goes to the sauna one day. On the way, she notes the aggression of the women walking through the streets with umbrellas and compares it to the aggression she saw during the Russian invasion.
  • At the sauna, she is disgusted by the bodies of the other women around her. Afterwards, she stares at herself in the mirror and tries to find her soul underneath her body.
  • She resents her body for failing to become the only body in Tomas's life.
  • We learn that, after her return from Zurich, Tereza took a job as a bartender. There, she attempts to try out sexual levity and see if it works for her.
  • But she's terrible at flirting, because she doesn't know where to draw the line.
  • A man at the bar comes to Tereza's rescue one day when she is being harassed. He turns out to be an engineer.
  • Tereza dreams that Tomas sends her up Petrin hill to die. Just before the man with the rifle shoots her (in her dream), Tereza blurts out that she is not there by choice. He stops, and sends her back down the mountain.
  • She goes to the engineer's place, though she doesn't intend to have sex with him. When the moment comes, however, she does not resist.
  • Tereza is fascinated by the sight of her body next to a stranger's, but she doesn't want to let herself enjoy it. She enjoys it anyway. Afterward, she wishes to be degraded in front of her lover.
  • She thinks she will fall in love with him if he calls out to her, but then his voice sounds weak and unattractive. She quickly dresses and leaves.
  • One day Tereza finds a crow on the ground, buried alive, dying. She takes it home and puts it in the bathroom. It dies after she leaves the room.
  • Tereza begins to fear that the mean man in the bar is spying on her for the secret police. She worries that the thing with the engineer was a set-up to trap her.
  • Tereza and Tomas travel to the countryside together. She finds that the country's history has been erased after the removal of all the street signs.
  • While in the country, they bump into and have a drink with one of Tomas's former patients. Tereza begins to feel that she wants to move away from Prague to the countryside.
  • Tereza dreams that all of Prague's park benches are floating away down the river.
  • We travel back in time a bit and see how Tereza deals with the two years in which Tomas was a window washer.
  • Because his womanizing during this time period was worse than ever, Tereza isn't dealing so well.
  • One night, she dreams that she is buried alive under the ground, and that Tomas comes to get her out. But he goes longer and longer between visits, and she becomes less and less attractive waiting for him.
  • One night, Tomas is plagued with stomach pains. Tereza tries to take care of him. When he pushes her to reveal what's been bothering her, she admits that his hair always smells like another woman.
  • He tells her that he'll look into moving to the country.
  • Tomas and Tereza move to the countryside. He drives a pickup truck for the community farm and Tereza takes the cows out to pasture every day.
  • When Karenin gets sick, Tereza dreams that he gives birth to two rolls and a bee.
  • She finds a letter to Tomas written in small, feminine handwriting. She fears that he has been keeping up with a mistress in Prague.
  • She and Tomas have a fight and have not yet reconciled when they watch Karenin die.
  • Tereza dreams that Tomas turns into a rabbit. She interprets this as meaning that she has made him weak.
  • She finds out that the letters were from Tomas's son, who has joined the church. Tereza encourages him to invite his son over.
  • Tereza is struck by how old Tomas looks.
  • After Tomas relocates a farm worker's shoulder, they all go out drinking and dancing together.