The Unbearable Lightness of Being: A Novel Audiobook | Milan Kundera, Michael Henry Heim (translator) | Audible.com
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The Unbearable Lightness of Being: A Novel | [Milan Kundera, Michael Henry Heim (translator)]

The Unbearable Lightness of Being: A Novel

A young woman is in love with a successful surgeon, a man torn between his love for her and his incorrigible womanizing. His mistress, a free-spirited artist, lives her life as a series of betrayals—while her other lover, earnest, faithful, and good, stands to lose everything because of his noble qualities. In a world where lives are shaped by irrevocable choices and fortuitous events, and everything occurs but once, existence seems to lose its substance, its weight. Hence we feel “the unbearable lightness of being."
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Publisher's Summary

A young woman is in love with a successful surgeon, a man torn between his love for her and his incorrigible womanizing. His mistress, a free-spirited artist, lives her life as a series of betrayals - while her other lover, earnest, faithful, and good, stands to lose everything because of his noble qualities. In a world where lives are shaped by irrevocable choices and fortuitous events, and everything occurs but once, existence seems to lose its substance, its weight. Hence we feel “the unbearable lightness of being.”

A major achievement from one of the world’s truly great writers, Milan Kundera’s magnificent novel of passion and politics, infidelity and ideas, encompasses the extremes of comedy and tragedy, illuminating all aspects of human existence.

©1984; 1984 Milan Kundera; English translation © Harper & Row, Publishers, Inc. (P)2012 HarperCollins Publishers

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  •  
    Betty 05-18-12
    Betty 05-18-12 Listener Since 2007

    Elderly (1932), retired university professor, degrees in engineering and economics.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "A THOUGHTFUL JOURNEY"

    This is not a typical love story. When the opening paragraph of a story references Friedrich Neitzsche, we may conclude this is not going to be light, easy reading. Kundera is a new author for me. I like to learn something about the background of a new author; I find I can better understand where the writer is trying to take the reader (listener) if I know from whence he comes. (Thank you, Google.)

    Milan Kundera was born in the Czech Republic in 1929. He grew up in the Balkan area in the aftermath of WWI, the German Occupation in WWII followed by the Russian Occupation, rebellions and subsequent uprisings. He emigrated to France in 1975. His life has been long and intense and gave opportunities to gain wisdom and a wide overview of life.

    The story is built around three major characters and Karenin, a dog: Tomas, a successful surgeon in Prague who is an unabashed womanizer with a wife and son; Tereza, a young student working as a photo-journalist during the turmoil in the Balkans who falls in love with Tomas; and Sabina, a free spirit artist with a faithful lover while she is Tomas’ mistress. Around these characters, Kumdera weaves his philosophical questions of irrevocable, never to return periods of life and eternally returning cycles to be repeated over and over again.

    His writing is lucid and compelling. There is love in many forms, from erotic sex to the love of a beloved dog. And, there are points to ponder as we examine our own experiences. His novel is worth the thoughtful hours required to follow him.

    19 of 19 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Melinda UT 07-01-12
    Melinda UT 07-01-12 Member Since 2009

    Say something about yourself!

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    "Love, Politics, and Strange Bedfellows"

    Having read the book in the 80's, and just finished listening to this production, what do I think might be important to someone considering this for the first time? The long and the longer:

    *[This is a complex book, but not a difficult book. Don't be intimidated or turned off by "metaphysical philosophies", "psychoanalytical and existential themes", "post modern period " blah blah--unless you are reading this for a philosophy class. (In which case--get the textbook, lots of pencils and paper.) The title simply refers to 2 conflicting main philosophies, and getting these out of the way makes this less imposing. Roughly posited: Nietzche's idea of eternal return - every life/action repeats itself throughout time, therefore our decisions have weight (or heaviness); and Parmenide's philosophy of each person lives one life instead of recurring forever (therefore lightness), with the Kunderian addendum that the insignificance of our decisions causes great suffering and makes our being unbearable.
    Get that out of the way and proceed bravely, because you do not need a background in philosophy to understand this book--just patience. Kundera himself has no formal education in philosophy. The philosophies lay the ground work for Kundera to argue his own ideas about love, oppression, existence, and coincidence...which he does--both sides in fact--with dreamy-like lyricism and maxims enjoyable only if you are willing to take the time to ponder what you are reading; this is one of those "savor" books. Again, it is not difficult, but complex--like eating an artichoke compared to a carrot. But if you want difficulty, you can get into Kundera's lifestory, his politics and theories--and dig in very deeply.]

    Not completely a political, theological, philosophical, or romantic treatise- -the book is full of interesting ideas and weighty commentaries on each of these subjects. Set during the 1968 Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia, the story of four tumultuous relationships serves mostly as a stage for the narrator's (obviously Kundera) personal, and sometimes intrusive, philosophies, moving along without any linear plot, and with characters that remain largely undeveloped. It is hard to compare to anything else I've read, except very vaguely with Gabriel Garcia Marquez in feel.

    The narration was good, and I enjoyed hearing the book performed, but I could not have appreciated the book completely without having read the text version before. As to why this book so often receives rave reviews, I offer (and share) Pulitzer Prize winner M. Kakutani's appraisal: "The best books grow with us. Rather than presenting the same experience each time we reread them, they offer us newer, deeper, broader rewards that connect to many different aspects of the life we have been leading while we were away from them." Your appreciation of this book might be relative to where you are in life and your own personal struggles. I see it very differently than I did 20 years ago, but I still gain insight.

    The Unbearable Lightness of Being isn't in my top ten, and I don't recommend this to every reader for reasons I hope I've made clear, but with rephrased and often quoted passages like these, you can understand its literary value and appeal:
    "When the heart speaks, the mind finds it indecent to object."
    "Love is the longing for the half of ourselves we have lost."
    "What can life be worth if the first rehearsal for life is life itself?"
    "True human goodness, in all its purity and freedom, can come to the fore only when its recipient has no power."

    28 of 29 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Darwin8u Mesa, AZ, United States 10-17-12
    Darwin8u Mesa, AZ, United States 10-17-12 Member Since 2011

    A part-time buffoon and ersatz scholar specializing in BS, pedantry, schmaltz and cultural coprophagia.

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    "Muss es Sein? Es Muss Sein! Es Muss Sein!"

    After hearing last month that the great Slavic translator Michael Henry Heim had died, I thought it was about time to float up and read some Kundera. I enjoyed the concept of ULoB probably better than the actual book (although I still felt the book was exceptional).

    I certainly have my own issues with both Nietzsche's idea of eternal recurrance and Kundera's alternative and existential 'lightness of being', but couldn't avoid liking the lugubrious way Kundera approached his subject and the way he explored the messy triangulations of life, love, history, sex, death and politics in this novel.

    One glaring weaknesses, for me at least, was Kundera's tendency to turn his major characters into philosophical props. It was when Kundera waxed directly philosophical about kitsch or kindness that the novel resonated the strongest for me.

    11 of 11 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Andrea Fort Collins, CO, United States 09-03-12
    Andrea Fort Collins, CO, United States 09-03-12 Member Since 2012
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    "I am every character"
    If you could sum up The Unbearable Lightness of Being in three words, what would they be?

    Estrujar el alma


    What other book might you compare The Unbearable Lightness of Being to and why?

    I've seen glimpses of the books it references, such as "Anna Karinina" of Tolstoy in the over all feeling.
    Also I drew some parallels in the story telling of "One Hundred Years of Solitude" by Gabriel García Márquez. It also follows time and tragedy.

    It is also very unique.


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    There have been too many to count. Two that I remember most clearly are the of the bowler hat, and the other is of the park benches in the river.


    Any additional comments?

    It is unique to me in the sense that there is no named character that is not fully fleshed out, and each character is the best and the worst in everyone. There is no character I don't love, and none that I don't hate. I can clearly see myself in all of them.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Patricia San Diego, CA, United States 05-26-13
    Patricia San Diego, CA, United States 05-26-13 Member Since 2012
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    "Heavy Reading but worth it."

    I have always wanted to read this book but put it off over the years. I knew it would not be light reading and since I am definitely a speed reader, I knew I would be tempted to skip some of the philosophical stuff and concentrate on the plot. So having it read to me was ideal – no speed reading (oh, except that on my iPod I could speed it up, but I never did!). This is a well-known and highly reviewed book by the Czech writer Milan Kundera. He uses the stories of two couples to inject his philosophical musings about Prague in the 1960s and 1970s particularly during the period of the 1968 Russian invasion and the damping effect it has on Czech society and on our couples in particular. The main character, Tomas, is a womanizing surgeon who goes from one lover to the other until he stumbles on Tereza who totally confuses him. He doesn’t give up his other affairs but she has a definite hold on him. The author compares the ideas of “lightness” – we have one life to life and this is it – to “heaviness” – life is an unending cycle of repeats. It is much more complicated than that, of course. Despite the “coolness” of the narrative, you get attached to the characters as you follow them from youth to aging and see the deadening effect of totalitarianism on individuals and effects their choices have. It is very definitely worth reading and because it is not light reading, it is an excellent book to have read to you. I am very glad I finally know what it is all about.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Eclectic Reader Honolulu, HI USA 12-18-12
    Eclectic Reader Honolulu, HI USA 12-18-12 Member Since 2011
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    "Great Novel; Great Reading"

    I have read this book (in book form) three times and seen the movie three times. And now heard it twice.

    The book is a marvel--weaving together a moving story, memorable characters (especially, of course, Tereza), and thought-provoking, poetic meditations on love, fate, literature, art, music, and beauty..

    But the despair that ultimately underlies the novel is troubling. This lightness of being sits heavy on the heart when all is said and done.

    This crisp, clear, carefully modulated reading, was perfect. Richmond Hoxie's performance was exactly, syllable-by-syllable, right.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Gerald Sebastopol, CA, United States 11-13-12
    Gerald Sebastopol, CA, United States 11-13-12 Member Since 2012
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    "Teflon Meets Flypaper"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    I would recommend this book to a friend who has experienced being both stuck in a relationship with a person, career, or movement and also disengaged at these levels at various times of his or her life. Having had these experiences I found the story helpful in assessing my own life. It also helps me appreciate the balance I have now found.


    What did you like best about this story?

    I most enjoyed the various combinations of characters and situations that exemplified what can happen when a person needing freedom to experience all encounters one needing connection to express all. In the story this came together for me in Tomas' son, Simon. He could give all to God while not burdening another human being.


    What about Richmond Hoxie’s performance did you like?

    He served as a transparent medium for the story, which held my interest, throughout.


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    I wanted to use this for my commute and took a week to complete the book.


    Any additional comments?

    This was my first Audible selection, and I look forward to others.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Roswatheist Dexter, New Mexico, United States 10-21-12
    Roswatheist Dexter, New Mexico, United States 10-21-12 Member Since 2009
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    "I'm content with my weighty life."
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    I have and will. Americans are too prudish and shallow. I was very excited then the audiobook was finally released because I've treasured this book for a long time now-2003.


    What was one of the most memorable moments of The Unbearable Lightness of Being?

    I'll have to go with the second because the first is a tad X-rated. It was Kunera's comparison between Karenina/Vronsky and Tereza/Tomas. It was lovely and poetic and was entered into my poetic memory about nine years ago.


    Have you listened to any of Richmond Hoxie’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

    I haven't, so I can't compare. Sorry.


    If you were to make a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

    Better than Phillip Kaufman's adaptation.


    Any additional comments?

    Read or listen to this book. Highlight your copy.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Khaled ElSherbini Cairo, Egypt 10-01-12
    Khaled ElSherbini Cairo, Egypt 10-01-12 Member Since 2011

    Kelsherb

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    "wonderful story"
    What made the experience of listening to The Unbearable Lightness of Being the most enjoyable?

    excellent performance, and the story is wonderful.


    What did you like best about this story?

    from the movie made after the book. the book as usual is much deeper and more rewarding.


    If you could take any character from The Unbearable Lightness of Being out to dinner, who would it be and why?

    Sabina for sure


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Stephen San Francisco, CA, United States 11-18-12
    Stephen San Francisco, CA, United States 11-18-12 Member Since 2004

    Fictional characters in narrative

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    "Clever writing I guess"

    Quirky and even a little sexy without being prurient if that makes any sense. Actually I forget the story, maybe something about a girl not getting her man but not particularly worried about it? The writing style was the thing I liked. The political conditions of a city and sexual politics also.

    0 of 2 people found this review helpful
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