Saturday, June 2, 2007

TBR Review: The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera

I've wanted to read this book for a long time. Specifically, since I saw the movie as a teenager. A boyfriend took me to the movie at the time, presumably for it's titillating qualities -- indeed, I'd call the movie 'soft porn'. Anyway, I didn't really understand the characters in the movie. I mean, I was a teenager and all, but even then I couldn't understand their motivations, didn't get what they were about.

I'm so glad I read the book. I'd like to see the movie again now, but from what I remember, the movie is very different than the book. The book goes into more detail. Tereza, who in the movie is a weak, waif like dependent wife, is really an abandoned child looking for someone with strength to take care of her. But also, she understands a lot more than it appears. These things are able to be fleshed out in a book format, but not so much in a movie. So, in the book, you get more of a character study of each character and why they are behaving in such manners.

Having said that, I didn't really like the book all that much. The characters seem unconnected. There isn't really a storyline. You get inside one person's head in one chapter, and another's the next. But it isn't in the context of an ongoing story. In addition, at times Kundera completely steps out of the story altogether and starts talking to the reader about his philosophical ideas which are barely connected to whatever part of the story he has been telling. I really don't like it when authors do this. Tell a story, or write a nonfiction book about your philosophical ideas...but don't try to do both at once. Later in the book, he branches off for entire chapters about his views on religion and politics. By the end, I was skimming over entire pages just to get to the end.

So the final verdict is that I'm glad I read it because of my personal history with the film....but you might not be so glad if you read it. :)

9 comments:

kookiejar said...

I read this last year, and I was sooo glad to turn the last page. I just hated all the characters (and the author by the end). I don't see why everyone says this is such a great book. Glad I'm not alone in feeling that way.

jay are said...

Um, I think I'll pass.
Thanks for keeping me from wasting my time!!

Kimmie said...

I've always been drawn to the title. I'm glad I read this. Now I know not to bother.

Carl said...

That's pretty much how I think of the book. Kundera's philosphical musings are lucid but a good story needs much more than that.

Jay and Kimmie, a bad review isn't cause for dismissing the book. It's worth reading merely for seeing how it's written. Kundera does write well. He just doesn't build a compelling interrelationship for his characters.

Rhinoa said...

I was always interested in reading this. Will bear your comments in mind...

Kristin said...

I'm glad I'm not the only person who hates this book. I really wanted to like it but it was definitely one of those books I had to force myself to finish!

Camplin said...

I can read and reread this book. It is just beautiful piece of work.

Trish said...

There were parts of this that I skimmed as well, but overall I liked Kundera's style... And I enjoyed the book (I'm not sure that "enjoyed" is the right word). I hope you don't mind if I add you to my blogroll...I enjoy your honesty in your reviews.

watermole said...

The "novel of ideas" genre is not to everyone's taste I'd agree, but I think most of your objections are to the genre rather than this individual novel. Be careful when you read this not to expect the "kitsch" Kundera so thoughtfully describes and transcends.