What better way to get an understanding of the rich art, culture and history of the Czech Republic than to embark into a literary adventure into Czech literature!
I have set myself the challenge to read one Czech novel or short story a week. This will involve copious visits to one of my favourite places in Prague…LUXOR! If you haven’t heard of Luxor it’s a mega Czech bookstore and cafe where you can find almost any book. There is a wide selection of English books and other languages, as well as puzzles, art supplies and gifts. A trip to
Luxor is really an experience in itself and I often find myself lost in a literary sense with my nose in a book, or literally lost in the multi-level bookstore.
It seems only fitting to start this week with The Unbearable Lightness of Being (1984), a novel by Czech literary master Milan Kundera who just recently regained Czech citizenship after 40 years.
The Unbearable Lightness of Being is set in the Prague Spring upheaval of 1968 and follows the Soviet military occupation of Czechoslovakia, exploring the artistic and intellectual activities of the time. I really enjoyed Kundera’s cynical yet delightful writing style and found myself quickly immersed in the complicated and outrageous lives of the five main characters; Tomáš, Tereza, Sabina, Franz, and Karenin the dog.
Despite the novel being published 35 years ago, themes of love, sexuality, the duality of body and soul, and politics seem as relevant today as they were in 1984. Kundera took me through an introspective journey of self-reflection and painted a really vivid picture of life in Prague before Soviet occupation and how it dramatically changed forever. It’s also very philosophical and heavily influenced by Nietzsche. So if existentialism is your cup of tea ,then this will be right up your alley.
The novel is so poetically written and I have so many favourite quotes, it was hard just to choose just one to share with you. But this one was a taker:
“The heavier the burden, the closer our lives come to the earth, the more real and truthful they become”
Sometimes the novel was a little toooo existential for me, and I really don’t need more bleakness while I experience my first winter, ever. So, as much as I really did enjoy it, I was well and truly ready to say goodbye to Tomàš, Tereza, Sabina, Franz and Karenin and move on to something a little lighter than the Unbearable Lightness of Being.
I give the novel 4 rohlíks.
Have you read The Unbearable Lightness of Being?
Share your thoughts with us and join me next week in my Czech literary adventure!