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The Unbearable Lightness of Being

The Unbearable Lightness of Being


by Milan Kundera

The Unbearable Lightness of Being Time Quotes

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

Quote #1

She loved to walk down the street with a book under her arm. It had the same significance for her as an elegant cane for the dandy a century ago. It differentiated her from others.

(Comparing the book to the elegant cane of the dandy is not absolutely precise. A dandy's cane did more than make him different; it made him modern and up to date. The book made Tereza different, but old-fashioned. Of course, she was too young to see how old-fashioned she looked to others. The young men walking by with transistor radios pressed to their ears seemed silly to her. It never occurred to her that they were modern.) (2.8.5)

It is Tereza's anachronistic ways that make her so incompatible with Tomas. One could argue that his take on the separation of sex and love is a modern one, while her commitment to fidelity and her belief that the two cannot be separated is more old-fashioned.

Quote #2

Yes, the pictures of the invasion were something else again. She had not done them for Tomas. She had done them out of passion. But not passion for photography. She had done them out of passionate hatred. The situation would never recur. And these photographs, which she had made out of passion, were the ones nobody wanted because they were out of date. Only cactuses had perennial appeal. And cactuses were of no interest to her. (2.25.8)

This brings us back to the problem Kundera introduced early in the novel: the lightness of events that occur only once. By photographing the Prague invasion, Tereza means to preserve it in time so that it can be judged, so that the Russians must take some responsibility for it, and so that it carries weight, even though it does not recur.

Quote #3

Karenin was not overjoyed by the move to Switzerland. Karenin hated change. Dog time cannot be plotted along a straight line; it does not move on and on, from one thing to the next. It moves in a circle like the hands of a clock, which-they, too, unwilling to dash madly ahead-turn round and round the face, day in and day out following the same path. (2.27.1)

If events recur for Karenin, does that mean they take on more weight than the events that, for humans, occur only once?

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