The Novel pp 269-287 | Cite as

Taking the Gap

Milan Kundera: The Unbearable Lightness of Being


Like all the other novels we have examined in this study, The Unbearable Lightness of Being has been subjected to many kinds of reading. Especially after Philip Kaufman’s film based on the novel, millions of people in many countries have read it as a poignant love story of the relationship between a brilliant young Czech doctor Tomas and a young waitress Tereza, who meet by pure chance (a series of six light coincidences which acquire the weight of fate), whose love survives his compulsive womanising, the Russian invasion of Czechoslovakia, the disruption of their domestic life through exile and return, his humiliation when he has to resign as a surgeon eventually to become a window-cleaner, and hers when she has to find work in a bar where all the men make passes at her and one seduces her — until they escape from it all by leaving Prague and settling, with their dog Karenin, in a remote country village, where at the moment when they finally seem to attain a state of peace and happiness they are killed in an accident, crushed by a truck. Interwoven with their story is that of one of Tomas’s mistresses, the painter Sabina, who loves and leaves the Swiss academic Franz to settle in America, while he joins a great protest march to Cambodia and soon afterwards is murdered in a fortuitous mugging.


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© André Brink 1998

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