The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera

The Unbearable Lightness of Being (1984) is a novel of love and politics in communist-run Czechoslovakia between 1968 and the early 1980s.

It is laced with straightforward political and philosophical speculations. One feels the characters are only half drawn. This gives the work an odd tone of helpless existential detachment. Choices are shown to be irrevocable and at the same time humans are at the mercy of fortuitous events.

There really is no solid ground upon which to stand. Hope is felt to be a kind of fantasy. If we hold to it, we hold to an illusory security. If we relinquish it we float away (hence the ‘unbearable lightness’).

Having said that, Kundera ( can still assert the existence of values as evidenced in this excerpt: ‘True human goodness, in all its purity and freedom, can come to the fore only when its recipient has no power. Mankind’s true moral test, its fundamental test (which lies deeply buried from view), consists in its attitude towards those who are at its mercy: animals. And in this respect mankind has suffered a fundamental débacle, a débacle so fundamental that all others stem from it.’

320 pages in the Faber and Faber paperback edition.

Adapted for film ( in 1988 with Daniel Day-Lewis and Juliette Binoche and available on DVD (

Milan Kundera

ISBN 978-0571135394

Scroll to Top