Study Guide

The Unbearable Lightness of Being Part 3, Chapter 1

By Milan Kundera

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Part 3, Chapter 1

  • Franz is a professor at a University in Geneva. On his way home from a lecture, he stops to see his mistress in her studio.
  • He never makes love to her in Geneva, however, because he feels it would be disrespectful to go from her bed to his wife's bed in the same day.
  • Franz fell in love with his mistress several months ago. He tries to carve out a space for her that is separate from the rest of his life. Whenever he travels to give lectures or attend conferences, he brings his mistress with him.
  • Today, he asks her if she'll go to Palermo with him. She responds that she prefers Geneva. He interprets this to mean that she doesn't want him anymore.
  • He wonders how he can be so insecure with his mistress when he is so secure in all other aspects of his life.
  • The narrator offers an explanation: for Franz, love is the opposite of his public life.
  • It means offering yourself up to your lover and constantly expecting a blow.
  • Franz's painter-mistress pours them a drink and Franz realized that she does want him, just at home and not abroad.
  • He sees that she's violating the zone of purity he set up around her.
  • His lover takes off her shirt and fixes Franz with a gaze. This confuses him. She seems to be asking him something, but he doesn't know what. She puts on a bowler hat and stares at herself in the mirror.
  • Finally he takes the hat off her head, kisses her, and gets her to agree to go to Palermo with him.
  • Then he leaves and goes home.

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