Better Expect the Unexpected

Opposing perception of the same event, irony of life

The opposition of heaviness to lightness is repeated in the opposing perceptions of the meaning of the infidelities committed by Tomas, the “epic womanizer.”

Tomas does not see himself obsessed with women per se but

by the desire to discover and appropriate that one millionth part; he saw it as the core of his obsession. He was not obsessed with women; he was obsessed with what in each of them is unimaginable, obsessed, in other words, with the one millionth part that makes a woman dissimilar to others of her sex.

Why must the uniqueness be found only in sex?

Only in sexuality does the millionth part dissimilarity become precious, because, not accessible in public, it must be conquered. As recently as fifty years ago, this form of conquest took considerable time (weeks, even months!), and the worth of the conquered object was proportional to the time` the conquest took. Even today, when conquest time has been drastically cut, sexuality seems still to be a strongbox hiding the mystery of a woman’s “I.”

Ponder this: Why must a woman’s uniqueness be conquered, and why must the conquest derive only from sex? Is this a guy thing?

So Tomas’s perception of his infidelities is one of discovery and conquest, two acceptable motivations for the male. And even after he forms an intimate liaison with Tereza he questions

Was he genuinely incapable of abandoning his erotic friendships? He was. It would have torn him apart. He lacked the strength to control his taste for other women. Besides, he failed to see the need. No one knew better than he how little his exploits threatened Tereza. Why give them up? He saw no more reason for that than to deny himself soccer matches

I will refrain from stating my original reaction to Tomas and write only that he exonerates himself toward the end of the novel which I won’t reveal .

Tereza’s perception of these “erotic friendships” is totally opposite of Tomas’s and one of anguish, a doubting of Tomas’s love for her, creating anxiety that leads to nightmares in which she is in the company of naked ladies by a pool, doing knee bends. Tomas is above them, shooting those women who perform the exercise incorrectly. These are the troubled dreams of a woman who finds her mate’s dalliances destructive.

Tereza and Tomas marry, but here is the irony. One would hope that most marriages are based on love between husband and wife, and yet Kundera remarks

Yes, a husband’s funeral is a wife’s true wedding! the climax of her life’s work! The reward for her sufferings!

Diane McCormick