Study Guide

The Unbearable Lightness of Being Part 3, Chapter 7

By Milan Kundera

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Part 3, Chapter 7

  • Chapter 7 is the last part of the "Dictionary of Misunderstood Words," starting with "The Old Church in Amsterdam."
  • On one side of an old street in Amsterdam is a large, gothic church. It's been emptied out completely, except for a few stalls that were placed there for the rich during services.
  • On the other side of the street are a series of brothels. The prostitutes lounge in lingerie in the windows, displaying themselves to the world outside.
  • Franz is fascinated by the church because of its historical weight.
  • Sabina is reminded of the castles in her hometown, Bohemia, after the Communist coup. They were emptied out, as is this church. She knows that the rich got to sit in the stalls, while the poor had to stand. Yet she tells Franz that the beggars and the wealthy were united by a shared hatred of beauty.
  • When Franz hears the word "beauty," he thinks of the vanity of art and culture propagated by people like his wife.
  • Sabina remembers leaving the city one day when she was younger and escaping to the country on a rented motorcycle. She went into a church where a service was taking place and sat in the back. She didn't find God there, but she found beauty.
  • It was beautiful to her because the church seemed to be a world betrayed. This is how Sabina defines beauty: a world betrayed. The only way to find it is to demolish the scenery, to look behind the loud May Day parades, where it is hiding.
  • Franz, on the other hand, likes the emptiness of the old church in Amsterdam because it is empty of all the "vanity of culture," of people like his wife.

  • The next entry is "Strength"
  • One day, in bed together, Sabina admires Franz's muscles. But she knows that his strength is only physical. He is weak when it comes to the people that he loves. This weakness is his goodness. He could never order Sabina to strip the way that Tomas does, because he is not strong enough.
  • Then again, Sabina knows that she could never put up with a man who ordered her about all the time. She decides that no man, strong or weak, would be good for her.
  • In Sabina's mind, physical love can't exist without violence. In Franz's mind, love means renouncing strength. She knows that his take on this matter "disqualifies him from her love life" (3.7.26).
  • The last entry in the lexicon is "Living in Truth"
  • Franz has been living in lies since he met Sabina nine months earlier, because he hides the affair from his wife. His private life is a life of lies.
  • For Sabina, the public life is a life of lies, because living publicly means putting forth a certain false, crafted image. For her, only the private life can be a life of truth.
  • Franz thinks the only way he can live in truth is to break down the barriers between his private and public life. And so he tells his wife about his affair with Sabina right before he leaves for the trip to Geneva. This makes him feel lighter.

The Unbearable Lightness of Being Part 3, Chapter 7 Study Group

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