Monday, June 25, 2007

Books: The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera

For all of his philosophizing, academic name-dropping, and foreigner-status, there is a flatness and a use of hackneyed universalities that makes Kundera both an easy read and a guilty pleasure. I haven't seen the movie, but it's not hard to imagine how this book could translate easily onto film, for it's less a story than a tonal meditation on a handful of characters connected with each other via their amorous partnerships in and around Prague who, despite their rich sensitivities, are ultimately empty, blank ciphers.

The book is best when Kundera uses the lovers' stories to propel the political story of the communist occupation of Prague. I don't feel as though this is his ultimate goal, though. He would have been better served applying his elevated feelings to the material situation at hand, rather than using the material situation at hand to demonstrate his elevated feelings. I think that this is an usual response from me, but I feel it intensely, perhaps because he conveys said elevated feelings with so many clichés.