John Barnard


The power of Milan Kundera's The Unbearable Lightness of Being (1985)springs from a constant exchange between his sceptical critical intelligence and his belief in the autonomy of his fictional characters. The novel persistently draws attention to its fictiveness. It is divided into seven named parts. Part One, 'Lightness and Weight', opens with an ironic self-contained section on Nietzsche's 'idea of the eternal return' (the first of many interpolated 'essays' on 'philosophical' topics). There is an avoidance throughout of interior monologue. The narrator insistently reminds us in propria persona that what we are reading is a fiction: 'I have been thinking about Tomas for many years' (6). Tomas, the novel's central male character, is a Prague surgeon, long divorced and a latter-day Don Juan. He is at once separate from the narrator and the narrator's creation: He could no longer quite remember what had prompted his decision.



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