She Ain’t Heavy, She’s My Lover

When Tereza leaves Tomas in Zurich to return to Prague, Tomas alludes to Beethoven’s last quartet to stifle a criticism of her for leaving him. Beethoven introduces the movement with a phrase, “Der schwer gefasste Entschluss,” translated as “the difficult resolution:” how do we resolve or determine a course of action? What is Tomas to do about his love for Tereza? The answer is “Es muss sein! (It must be!) Kundera interjects his explanation:

…Beethoven apparently viewed weight as something positive. Since the German word schwer means both ‘difficult ‘ and ’heavy,’ Beethoven’s ‘difficult resolution’ may also be construed as a ‘heavy’ or ‘weighty resolution.’ The weighty resolution is at one with the voice of Fate (‘Es muss sein!); necessity, weight, and value are three concepts inextricably bound: only necessity is heavy, and only what is heavy has value.

Another point to ponder: “Only necessity is heavy…and only what is heavy has value”–is that true? I must dedicate some time over the next few weeks to test that statement.

We all reject out of hand the idea that the love of our life may be something light or weightless; we presume our love is what must be, that without it our life would no longer be the same; we feel that Beethoven himself, gloomy and awe-inspiring, is playing the “Es muss sein!” to our own great love.

Thus Beethoven’s music becomes a metaphor for life and underscores the necessity for the love story to carry the progression in the novel. We do what we do and we love whom we love because “It must be.”

Fortuities and music

Just about the time the reader thinks he may have found the answers to the questions this novel raises, another point of view is offered.

Tereza mentions to Tomas that if she hadn’t met him, she could easily have fallen in love with any one of an infinite number of men. Now what to do? Es muss sein! becomes “Es konnte auch anders sein.” (It could just as well be otherwise.)

Tomas remembers the six “improbable fortuities” that led him to his meeting Tereza. He concludes:

Chance and chance alone has a message for us.

Necessity knows no magic formulae–they are all left to chance. If a love is to be unforgettable, fortuities must immediately start fluttering down to it like birds to Francis of Assisi’s shoulders.

So which is it? Are our lives a matter of events and loves that must be or are we led by accidental occurrences–fortuities?