Study Guide

The Unbearable Lightness of Being Part 5, Chapter 13

By Milan Kundera

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Part 5, Chapter 13

  • Tomas remembers the day when Tereza came home with a crow wrapped up in her scarf, pressed against her breast as though she were cradling a baby.
  • After the crow incident, she told him how upset she was about an undercover Russian man who had been bothering her at the bar.
  • Tomas feels bad that he's seen so little of her for the last two years and has had such little opportunity to calm her down.
  • The next morning, Tomas is sent to a particular customer who requested him for window washing.
  • It turns out to be a two men who wanted to meet with him. The first man has a big chin, and turns out to be the editor who Tomas incriminated accidentally when interrogated by the man from the Ministry. The second man, much younger, is Tomas's son from his first marriage.
  • This is the first time Tomas has ever had to speak with his son, and he's not interested in knowing anything about him.
  • It's clear that both these men are actively against the Russian Communists.
  • The editor tells him that the paper (in which Tomas published his Oedipus article) has been banned, and most of his friends have lost their jobs, as Tomas has.
  • Tomas is distracted, however, wondering about his son.
  • His first wife was a Communist, and he expected that his son would be as well.
  • Eventually the two guys reveal their purpose in summoning Tomas.
  • They've drafted a petition to have politically imprisoned Czech intellectuals released, and they want Tomas to sign it.
  • Tomas considers this. He knows that if they do send such a petition, then all it will do is convince the Russians to keep them imprisoned longer.
  • Tomas wants to think it over, but the editor tells him they're sending the petition off tomorrow.
  • Tomas resents that everyone is trying to get him to sign something he didn't write.
  • He notices his son make an expression that Tomas often makes himself. Such a similarity is disconcerting to him. He realizes that what is at stake here is his relationship with his son.
  • If he signs, he will have to be friends with his son. If he does not sign, then they will continue on their separate ways.
  • Finally, he decides that signing or not signing won't make a difference in his own life or in the lives of the prisoners.
  • He takes the petition from them.

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