Study Guide

The Unbearable Lightness of Being Part 1, Chapter 17

By Milan Kundera

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Part 1, Chapter 17

  • Tomas has trouble sleeping in Prague because Russian military planes fly overhead during the night.
  • Instead, he spends his nights thinking. He remembers when Tereza told him that, had she not fallen in love with him (with Tomas), she would have fallen in love instead with Tomas's friend Z.
  • Tomas realizes that it is only by chance that Tereza fell in love with him and not his friend. In fact, there are any number of other men she could have fallen in love with.
  • We all like to think that our love has weight, and that it belongs to the realm of Beethoven's "Es muss sein!"
  • But in fact, Tomas and Tereza's love isn't so much an "It must be!" as an "It could just as well be otherwise."
  • Tomas thinks back to all the random events that had to occur seven years earlier to bring him and Tereza together. It had taken six chance happenings, all combined together just right.
  • He sees Tereza as "the personification of absolute fortuity" (1.17.7). (You can think of a "fortuity" as a lucky or chance happening.)
  • As Tereza lies snoring beside him, Tomas feels no compassion. Instead, he feels "pressure in his stomach and the despair of having returned" (1.17.9).

The Unbearable Lightness of Being Part 1, Chapter 17 Study Group

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