I Enjoy a Heavy Novel

I was surprised how much I enjoyed The Unbearable Lightness of Being. Perhaps this enjoyment stems from the fact that my philosophy of life has been shaped by literature. As I mentioned in my very first comment about the book, it is almost as much a philosophy lecture as it is a novel. I’m sure many people would consider that a weakness, not a strength, though. In fact, at least in this novel, storytelling is one of Kundera’s weaknesses. The plot of the story seems virtually nonexistent.

When Kundera steps out of the novel and reminds you that his characters are not real but merely his inventions, he breaks one of the fundamental rules of most fiction, the willing suspension of disbelief. I remember that the first time this happened to me in a John Fowles’ novel I was outraged. I threw the book down in disgust and walked off, only to come back because I was required to read it for a college course.

I might have felt the same way here if Kundera hadn’t begun with a reference to Nietsche’s myth of eternal return. But, by beginning the book the way he did, he let the reader know that this was not going to be your typical novel. This is a novel of ideas, and there are more ideas here than I have time to discuss. I ended up with a stack of significant quotations that I simply couldn’t fit within the motifs that I have discussed. If I were to go back and read the book again, I’m sure I could write more than I have already written.

If I had wanted to spend more time on the novel, I would have liked to explore the idea of dreams and what they reveal about ourselves. It would have been equally interesting to explore his concept of vertigo and how it relates to self-destructiveness. It would be equally fascinating to discover whether Kunders, like older Romantics, sees beauty and truth as identical, as it appears.

Perhaps one of the main reasons I find Kudnera so fascinating is that he appears to be attempting to combine the ideas of existentialism and Romanticism in his novel, not an easy thing to do. In fact, in some ways they seem completely opposing philosophies. One of the reasons I find this so interesting, though, is that these are precisely the two philosophies I have found myself attracted to in life.

I’m sure I will be exploring some of Kundera’s other novels in the near future.

For right now, though, after a short break, Diane and I will be focusing on the past, on the Transcendentalists who the Beats claimed as their own.

It’s been a long time since I’ve studied Transcendentalism, but it was very influential in my college years. I’m looking forward to looking back.

Here are some other sources on the web:

Roger Ebert's Movie Review

Nietzsche's Eternal Return

Essays at Info Point

Reading Group Guide to the Novel

What do you think?