The Unbearable Lightness of Being The Unbearable Lightness of Being discussion


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what is your idea about Tereza?

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message 1: by Kimia (last edited Aug 25, 2016 10:52AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kimia what are you feeling about Tereza?


message 2: by Beth (last edited Aug 25, 2016 10:55AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Beth I read the novel in 1984!! Have seen the film several times. Tereza is the most important woman in the novel. Unfortunately, as erotic & free as she is, she is victim to loving a misogynist... This novel is definitely a masterwork. The film is beautifully done as well.


message 3: by Luna (last edited Aug 25, 2016 10:55AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Luna I didn't see Tereza as "erotic and free" I think that was much more Sabina.

Both women, of course, were guilty of loving the same misogynist...

Sabina, however, was just as liberated from morals as Tomas... Tereza, by contrast, served to anchor him. Sabina, I think, represented absolute freedom-- which ultimately was nothingness. Tereza... the opposite. With her, Tomas was not only tied to one woman, but confined to a small village. I think Tomas was, in a way, torn between the two women and what they offered. Tereza, it turned out, gave him fulfillment and meaning... however crushing.

The movie... A lot of people really like the film. I wasn't such a big fan. I loved the book! But somehow, I felt it didn't translate well. Much of the appeal to me was the philosophy behind the characters... moreso than the story itself.


message 4: by Kecia (last edited Aug 25, 2016 10:55AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kecia I loved both the movie and the book. When I saw the movie I related to Tereza...I too was heavy. I took relationships too seriously and constantly had my heart broken...sitting home alone with cat named Tolstoy. Then I went to Prague in the spring of 1996 and picked up a copy of the book at The Globe bookstore. My life changed on that trip and suddenly I found myself in Sabina's shoes. Completely light and free...yes, it lead to nothingness. It's been more than 10 years since that trip, my Tomas lives in Mexico City and he's still a misogynist, my Tereza is happily married to another man in Prague, and I'm here still single in the US...and still unbearably light.

Kundera got this story right.


message 5: by Aly (last edited Aug 25, 2016 10:57AM) (new)

Aly I find the idea of freedom being the sort of anxiety of no direction, no framework, while the framework in itself is imprisoning to be very interesting in light of the background of Prague Spring. It's almost as though, yes, Communism was oppressive, but to go without it was a terrifying thing to those who lived under it.


message 6: by Naomi (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:10AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Naomi This book had a remarkable effect on the way I conceived being. Of the characters in the book the one I had the most sympathy with was Teresa. Her seriousness, heaviness and tendency to live in her head (i.e. not like the unburdened or free spirited as Sabina). Franz and Teresa shared a heaviness that characterised Nietzche's approach to life while Sabina and Tomas seemed firmly in the world of the body, sexuality and a determination not to be politicised or trapped into someone else's agenda. Paremenides' (I think he was quoted quite early on in the book) philosophy as lightness being a negative weight was pivotal in understand the main thrust of this book - those who embrace 'lightness' accept that fate rules our lives and are content to live in the present. For most people (Teresa and Franz being amongst them) this lightness is unbearable and they want to attach meaning to weigh them in the world. At the end, none of these characters were able to resolve the ultimate question. Death found three before the end of the book and even Sabina shuddered at the thought of having a stone put on her corpse when she died. I was thinking of this recently in relation to dandyism or those that are determined to live what I would consider a superficial life - though I think that description betrays my own search for meaning and depth. Perhaps this is what Andrei Bitov means when he writes about meeting reality as it happens rather than living by a predetermined/preimagined script.


message 7: by merryxmas (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:23AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

merryxmas Typical battered wife syndrome. She was from the country married to a big city doctor so she abided with his indiscretions and did nothing. Except she slept with the pool boy. Or a communist spy, however you look at it. Not much different from today's marriages among the upper class.


message 8: by Andy (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:25AM) (new)

Andy That's rich, xmas.


message 9: by Morgan (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:59PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Morgan I read this book a while ago and while I sympathized with Teresa, everyone around me picked someone else. My best friend chose Franz, my girlfriend chose Tomas (yes, that was alarming), and close friend chose Sabina. I think for me this book, and Teresa, was about how people need different things. How lightness and heaviness can be both positive and negative depending on to whom it's offered. I've embraced my heaviness and I like it. At the same time, my first love floated off into the atmosphere happily unbound. This was an important book for me - all about perspective.


Weston I loved this book, but I would have to say the movie was horrible, I had to turn it off before it butchered the characters, and potentially ruined what is an amazing book.
I saw Tereza as the opposite of erotic and free, that seemed to be more of Sabina's role. The two characters seemed almost contrary to one another.


Marcy prager Tereza was so ridiculed by her mother, and had such a low concept of herself, that she finally escaped to be loved by Tomas. Even though Tomas was a proclaimed womanizer even before he met Tereza, and certainly after, he kept coming back to Tereza, so in one way, he was still the more "stable" relationship that Tereza craved. Her grasp on his hands from the very beginning of their living together is a glimpse that she will never let go because he is all she has. She is never free. Her mom imprisoned her; She had no alternative. Tereza is loyal to a mom and a husband who disappoint her continuously. She never experiences total fulfillment. Tomas is never really free; He keeps coming back to Tereza, even though he craves his freedom, this lightness of being before Tereza enters his life. Tereza is a burden, Tomas is a burden. Neither are free.


Alyoshka Naomi, that is a very good summary of the characters' feelings toward existence. I definitely agree with you on the whole. I would simply add that all the characters felt the "unbearable lightness of being," the inability to have any ultimate control over their lives, but their attitude and level of awareness about it and the way they reacted to it changed. For instanced, Tomas was empowered by the lightness and felt very little burdened by it; he was burdened by Tereza's inability to accept it. Sabina most acutely felt the lightness and also found power in it, but also felt how empty and difficult that "burden" is. Only in solitude do Tomas and Tereza reconcile their opposing attitudes. Absolutely fantastic book. One of my absolute favorites.


Norman I've enjoyed very much scrolling through the comments on this thread.

In my opinion, Kundera suggests that Tereza and Tomas (who by the way is NOT a misogynist) complement each other - it may not be a smooth relationship, but in the end they realize they belong together and are as imperfectly happy as either of them can expect to be.


message 14: by Kendra (last edited Aug 21, 2008 09:27PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kendra (I've got to agree that Tomas is not a misogynist just becasue he sleeps with alot of women... and tereza is only a "victim" by choice) Although the choices they made seemed random, they both continually chose the same thing. Tereza was in pain because she wanted something from him he wasnt willing to give... and he was in pain because she was in pain, but he kept doing what he knew would hurt her. They wouldn't make any other choices being together as themselves. In the end I think she realized she made her choices and he made his, and accepted both him and her as they were, without judgement. I agree with Marcy that they were both imprisoned, but this ending seems somewhat freeing - just a shift of consciousness - allowance is ultimately lightness.


message 15: by Eeeeeep (new) - added it

Eeeeeep I actually really disliked Tereza. I think she makes things too serious, I think she causes a lot of pain to the man that loves her and she and Tomas obviously should NOT be together.
She loves Tomas but it breaks her heart that he cheats and it breaks HIS heart that her heart is broken, however he is not willing to change his lifestyle for her, and she is not willing to change her views for him.
They have a relationship based on what they are NOT willing to do for each other, what they CANNOT do for each other. How can that work out? They conciously cause each other pain because they are both aware that they're actions hurt the other but neither of them can change. Isn't that what you call a dead end? Isn't that the moment when you agree that being together means constant misery and being apart (althoug it will start out painful) is for the best?
Their relationship is completely doomed and I think it was selfish of her to come back to Tomas knowing all this.
After all how could have Tomas resisted her? He loved her.


Teresa It is interesting that Beth sees Tereza as "erotic and free." I sometimes felt this for her as well but she shuns her own characteristics and suppresses them to the extreme because of her relationship with her mother. The opposite of Sabina, she is clearly drawn to her as a potential mentor because Sabina is what Tereza's lover also needs. Tereza sees herself as a woman with "erotic and free" potential but never comes close to accepting it. I found the Sabina-Tereza relationship to be intriguing but felt anxious for Tereza to break out of her continuous closing shell.


message 17: by Aparna (last edited Jan 30, 2009 10:56PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Aparna I personally found Teresa's character disturbing. You would think having the kind of mother she did would make her mentally strong enough to say NO and give her some inner strength to not take any thing lying down. But NO. To me she again and again chose to be walked over, just to justify her incessant depression and whining. Everything she did became a problem. She learn't nothing from difficult situations (sleeping with the engineer spy, Thomas sending her to get shot) and used that to further support her ranting of continuously being the "victim".

However, somewhere deep deep down I did appreciate her unflinching love though, and how in her own way she somehow accepted all situations in her life.


Marcy prager I enjoyed reading your comment, Aparna! It is extremely reflective! Teresa was depressed and in desperate need of love. If this story took place in the present, therapy and pills would have helped her deal. But those were not available to her in the past and not believed in. I did not see Teresa as a "whiner," but a deeply depressed woman who was abused at a young age by her mother. This has long-term effects an anyone and everyone reacts differently. She left Tomas at one point which did show strength, and in Tomas' way, he was there to hold her during her very scary nightmares. He did love her in his own way. Teresa also found strength with her photography. She did face the horrors of internal war, I thought, with a vengeance. Quite brave! Teresa did get her man in the end...both in life and in death.


message 19: by [deleted user] (new)

So far I like Tereza very much as she reminds me of women I have known and liked. I am enjoying this classic much more than expected. I do not like Tomas but maybe he will grow on me?

Anyone with a mother like hers would have had lots of problems. But I have only just started it and sorry I read some of the "spoilers" which usually do not bother me.


message 20: by Ivana (last edited Apr 27, 2011 02:22AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ivana When a woman who wants monogamy meets a man like Tomas, it can only lead to destruction and torture.
Kundera portrayed two opposite female characters , one free spirited, the other dependable , but both strong in their own way...Tereza is determined to keep Tomas forever( burden,weight), and the other is in constant search for freedom(lightness )....

What then shall we choose? Weight or lightness?


Marcy prager Great comment, Ivana!


Ivana Marcy wrote: "Great comment, Ivana!"

Thank you Marcy.I always find it hard to express thoughts or ideas in words... Sometimes I have so many things on my mind and then, I write just a sentence or two. I am glad you liked it....


message 23: by Ben (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ben I see Tereza as striving for peace and finally getting it in the end when they move into the country.


Marcy prager And happiness is short lived - the darkness of this novel.


Ivana Marcy wrote: "And happiness is short lived - the darkness of this novel."

And not only in fiction.....


Sharon L. Sherman No winners or losers really--this story is a slice of life during a turbulent time for men and women defining and redefining themselves (politically, socially, intellectually, and emotionally). I don't think the novel's ending is dark though. Kundera's point is that life is light, and short. That is what makes it unbearable--the people we meet along the way (equally flawed and human, but with particular strengths that can support us) help us bear it.

I saw myself in each of the primary characters--that is the book's existential power.


Joana Sharon L. wrote: "No winners or losers really--this story is a slice of life during a turbulent time for men and women defining and redefining themselves (politically, socially, intellectually, and emotionally). I d..."

I feel the same way..Even though Kundera created several raw, complex and real characters, I think his idea was mainly to express the human being as one, it's true essence, which goes way beyond just the characters; I really do think that this book has more to it than what people usually think. The story itself is meant to make you think about your own life and your own personality, with the final goal of understanding a bit more about yourself.

Truly, it represents, for me, a few of the basic things that allow us to be human and to act as such. I loved it :) !


message 28: by Kayla (new)

Kayla Just a note about the movie, I've never seen it so I'm not going to judge it, but I think it's important to note that Kundera hated the movie so much he no longer allows any of his work to be turned into films. It might be a good movie, but it's certainly not a good representation of the work, according to its author.

My favorite thing about this work is how unafraid Kundera is to make his characters average. He embraces the banal, and in this way, the characters feel so real and the story is all the more moving. I love that Tereza is plain and yet the most important thing in Tomas's life. I love her introspection, and at the asme time, how she can't seem to understand herself at all. This book wonderfully captures dualities and even contradictions. Kundera is fearless.

Honestly, I thought the most moving part of the entire book was Karenin and his death scene. I am not an animal lover. Not even close. But I sobbed, literally sobbed, at the last 30 pages. And I wasn't crying for what Karenin represented in a literary way, I was crying because I didn't want him to die. because he really was the great love of Tereza's life.

I don't know about anyone else, but I didn't really like sabina. She's an interesting character but she's almost like a trope: the artsy unavailable girl. She didn't seem as real or as complex as anyone else. Anyone agree or disagree? I'd love to be convinced on sabina's importance.


Ivana Kayla wrote: "Just a note about the movie, I've never seen it so I'm not going to judge it, but I think it's important to note that Kundera hated the movie so much he no longer allows any of his work to be turne..."

I like Sabrina's independence, her intelligence . Her character is more deep than it seems at the first sight. She loved them both very much. Someone would say egoistic , but in my opinion she was just very individul. And not less important than other characters... Like a bridge between two souls...


Simon Cooper Kayla wrote: "Just a note about the movie, I've never seen it so I'm not going to judge it, but I think it's important to note that Kundera hated the movie so much he no longer allows any of his work to be turne..."

One of those very rare instances where I feel the book and the film are of equally high quality. Both moved me to tears, but at completely different points, the only difference with the film was that I cried at the same time as several hundred other movie-goers!


Emanuel Landeholm Irrational, emotional, pretty. A perfectly uninteresting stereotype of a woman. Yawn


Joana Emanuel wrote: "Irrational, emotional, pretty. A perfectly uninteresting stereotype of a woman. Yawn"

I only think she was irrational and emotional because Thomas' personality drove her to a state like that..sure that I never did believe Tereza was a very strong woman, but I highly doubt she would behave like that if she wasn't so desperate to keep Thomas with her and only her; in her case, I don't think that's wrong or uninteresting, I think she was fighting for what was hers and that is something to applaud.


Sabahat merryxmas wrote: "Typical battered wife syndrome. She was from the country married to a big city doctor so she abided with his indiscretions and did nothing. Except she slept with the pool boy. Or a communist spy..."

well said


Ivana Sabahat wrote: "merryxmas wrote: "Typical battered wife syndrome. She was from the country married to a big city doctor so she abided with his indiscretions and did nothing. Except she slept with the pool boy. ..."

Sabahat wrote: "merryxmas wrote: "Typical battered wife syndrome. She was from the country married to a big city doctor so she abided with his indiscretions and did nothing. Except she slept with the pool boy. ..."
I was sometimes so frustrated with her actions, such passivity , adoration for a womanizer who never had deep emotions for her, she was almost like a puppy to him... Well, I know it is not the point, 'cause book and characters are so much more... But while reading , we sometimes become characters themselves and have to '' fight'' for their rights....


Geoffrey I have oftened wondered as to the significance of the title and have concluded that after some thought, it referred to Sabina`s feeling of emptiness at the end of the novel. THE UNBEARABLE LIGHTNESS OF BEING is the narcissistic feeling of the true artist, in this case Sabina, whose only real connection to others was through her only two friends who had just died.


message 36: by Rupert (new)

Rupert It is quite depressing for me to read how many contributors refer to Sabina's and Tomas' attitude to life a simply being "light". In my obviously and proudly extremely heavy mind this thing being referred to as "lightness" is known as many things other than lightness, amongst them: deceit, betrayal, selfishness, ephimeral and pointless self-satisfaction, disgusting, mean, empty, soul-less, damaged (as Sabina clearly is); and a sure way to keep producing troubled people in the world. Someone has to do the dirty work of procreating and raising well-balanced happy individuals. Faithfullness between lovers must be one of the key bases for a family, based above all on: RESPECT.

I understand we are all human and sexual indiscretions are hugely common amongst otherwise very decent people.

Still, I find Tomas' character revolting and I feel people like Sabina are the product of couples formed by people like Tomas' and so they continue spreading unhappiness through the ages.

I am not religious, I am a man, I am fairly good-looking and successful. Still, I don't feel the need to betray my wife however many opportunities come my way. I'd rather just masturbate and at least I spare her any social embarrasement and feeling of shame/betrayal.


Ivana Erotic and free?Tereza? She loved Tomas deeply ...., a kind of suffocated love. Who says that Sabrina was in love with him. In my opinion ahe was searching for her own identity even through her relationship with Tomas and Tereza....


Julie Ivana wrote: "Erotic and free?Tereza? She loved Tomas deeply ...., a kind of suffocated love. Who says that Sabrina was in love with him. In my opinion ahe was searching for her own identity even through..."

In my opinion, Tereza was a suffocated person in general, and kind of naive, but very loving and willing to withstand emotional torture in a way that shows she can be strong..yet it is also the very thing that makes up her weakness. And I think she was searching for her own identity as well, through her interactions with Tomas and Sabina, and through her photography.

I admire Tereza in a way, because she didn't leave Tomas, despite his consistent deplorable actions. She was there for him, because he provided heaviness to her life. She also loved Karenin with intensity. Love weighed her down.


message 39: by Ivana (last edited Oct 17, 2013 08:01AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ivana Julie wrote: "Ivana wrote: "Erotic and free?Tereza? She loved Tomas deeply ...., a kind of suffocated love. Who says that Sabrina was in love with him. In my opinion ahe was searching for her own identity..."

Searching for identity.... That reminded me of his another great novel, which unforunately I haven't read yet.......


Geoffrey The unbearable lightness refers to Sabina`s feelings at the end of the novel, not to the Teresa and Tomas. The only two people she had any semblance of a personal relationship to both died simultaneously. She is now completely free, hence the unbearable lightness of being.


Julie Geoffrey wrote: "The unbearable lightness refers to Sabina`s feelings at the end of the novel, not to the Teresa and Tomas. The only two people she had any semblance of a personal relationship to both died simultan..."

I disagree somewhat. I believe all of the characters, including Tereza and Tomas, represent varied levels of heaviness/lightness, as everyone does in life. But, yes, the ending is the ultimate description of "the unbearable lightness" with Sabina being the one to experience it.


Therese Williams Kendra wrote: "(I've got to agree that Tomas is not a misogynist just becasue he sleeps with alot of women... and tereza is only a "victim" by choice) Although the choices they made seemed random, they both cont..."

these characters are all alter egos to some extent- we can chose to be light or heavy .... the way we perceive and accept our life situations ...is choice only to a point ... tereza's profile character is the result of an abusive upbringing and an environment that made her feel unsafe and insecure...her childhood dictated much of the person she became ... she loved hard and deep and she ultimately chose not to evolve from that...hers was heavy while Sabina managed to transcend and become live lightly.


Therese Williams Ivana wrote: "Julie wrote: "Ivana wrote: "Erotic and free?Tereza? She loved Tomas deeply ...., a kind of suffocated love. Who says that Sabrina was in love with him. In my opinion ahe was searching for he..."

I would have to disagree - those words are for Tereza - lightness was not bearable for her... Tomas and Sabina got it ... but Tereza is Tomas' balance... although he too became heavy..but was able to escape it - Tereza brought him back to that reality. these characters are all alter egos to some extent- we can chose to be light or heavy .... the way we perceive and accept our life situations ...is choice only to a point ... tereza's profile character is the result of an abusive upbringing and an environment that made her feel unsafe and insecure...her childhood dictated much of the person she became ... she loved hard and deep and she ultimately chose not to evolve from that...hers was heavy while Sabina managed to transcend and become live lightly.


message 44: by Andrew (new)

Andrew Collins Man, there are so many people that just missed the meaning of this book entirely, especially those who are hating on Tomas or criticizing Tereza. Tomas is not selfish or misogynistic, and Tereza is not weak or foolish. They are simply two people who experience the world in such different ways that they are inevitably harmful to the other; but, because they have by circumstance fallen in love, they are drawn together like to opposite sides of a magnet being pushed together. Tomas is someone who is always drawn to Lightness, whereas Tereza lives in a heavy world. The essence of who they are will always be pulling on opposite ends of a rope, but Tomas feels a sense of love and duty to Tereza, and Tereza is hopelessly and eternally in love with Tomas; the rope is their love, and it fails to break up until the day they die.


Ivana Andrew wrote: "Man, there are so many people that just missed the meaning of this book entirely, especially those who are hating on Tomas or criticizing Tereza. Tomas is not selfish or misogynistic, and Tereza is..."

Like I said before :What then shall we choose? Weight or lightness?

Kundera potrays different characters in a difficult period of time, one dangerous and ''tortured''era when it was important to survive and keep dignity.... And he describes it all ''using''the best possible way , through love triangle...It is the
eternal dilemma..... Right or wrong, weak or strong, weight or light , again....


Geoffrey Julie wrote: "Geoffrey wrote: "The unbearable lightness refers to Sabina`s feelings at the end of the novel, not to the Teresa and Tomas. The only two people she had any semblance of a personal relationship to b..."

My statement referred to "the unbearable lightness of being" and that refers to Sabina´s feeling at the end, and yes, the "lightness of being" refers to the feelings of the other two, so we are not in disagreement other than that you are wrong in saying there is a disagreement.


Rajat I am a bit perturbed by this book. Though I cannot justify Tomas's indiscretions, specially in the presence of Tereza's steadfastness, however I think I am missing the point here. I think in trying to justify or find fault in the acts of the characters of the book, I am limiting my vision by bringing in my own prejudices and am being unable to see the whole picture. Immediately after I read the book, I did not feel too great about it and actually felt a little disappointed because I heard much about the book. However the characters keep coming back to me while I try to negotiate with the vicissitudes of my own life. Tomas's behavior is no more as reprehensible to me, while Sabina's desire for freedom and ultimate loneliness, though sad seems justified. Teresa on the other hand is not someone I would want to recommend to anyone as a model, though I admire her qualities. Life seems to me to be like a fluid and all the outcomes are just the shape life takes depending on the vessel we keep it in.


Karen Andrew wrote: "Man, there are so many people that just missed the meaning of this book entirely, especially those who are hating on Tomas or criticizing Tereza. Tomas is not selfish or misogynistic, and Tereza is..."

That is my feeling also about the couple, it is really that simple. I haven't finished yet, but I love the book. People need to refrain from judgment concerning the morals of the individuals in this story.


message 49: by Lizzie (last edited Sep 15, 2019 01:11PM) (new)

Lizzie I had never heard of this book before. I had been given a copy for my birthday being told it was a romance novel. After reading it I discovered it was not quite the "romance novel" I had anticipated.

I refuse to believe that Tereza and Tomas did not love each other. I believe Tomas was simply a victim of society, mainly the soviets, as they had been 'shaped' and 'created' in attempts to separate family and pleasure making it easier for them (the soviets) to control the masses.

Tereza and Tomas are both victims in their relationships as they both "burden" each other. Tereza burdens Tomas with jealousy. He sees her a burden as well and feels she holds back his ability to be light sexually causing him to want mistresses as an escape from her even more. She refuses to let go despite lightness being "unbearable for her". Tereza is burdened by his infidelities. early on in the book it also mentions the punishments of having "weight" thus Tereza is burdened by her own "weight" with more in the form of and nightmares - associated with soul emend to be 'heavy'. Tereza is left to wait. She attempts to hold onto him, as a paperweight weighs down pages from escapement; holding him tight at night, dealing with her own baggage as well as her husbands.

I refuse to believe they are not a correct match as opposites do attract and work when they are willing to sacrifice. On the surface they may not be matched but I believe in the end they find their equilibrium and balance between another as they die together in a car crash. A sign of chance - both characters ponder over their fate and saddens them how they met by chance so it is fitting they must both leave the world together this way.

I would like to point out how it addresses complicated love in the sense that they made each other miserable. it is proof love is not all romantic and perfect but if you work hard you can create a garden of eden as is hinted by Tomas towards the end. Kunderas dark characters are ones you cannot feel sole empathy for. Empathy and sympathy for each comes and goes as they are not human but merely representations and allusions of our world and Kunderas, they hold more meaning to them than just being people simply by being in a novel.


finally I would like to note Kundera's amazing art masterpiece at capturing the essence of humanity and aspects of relatable content to any reader throughout history as it faces topics which never fade.


Robertabutter One of my favorite novels of all time. I believe that all of the characters are well-developed archetypes. I can relate to different aspects of each of them, but most of all I identify with the narrator who views each character with compassion and deep understanding. We see how their personal histories and identities drive them to interact with eachother and the world in the way that each does. The novel explores different ways that people relate to one another in loving relationships, without judgement or ranking. Against the background of political and social upheaval, the personal stories are foremost – determining the happiness, suffering, or spiritual fulfillment of each character.

I especially appreciate that what holds Tomas and Teresa’s relationship together is simply their commitment to staying together, despite his philandering and her jealousy. There is no expectation that love delivers satisfaction. Near the end, a most poignant observation their relationship is that “sadness is the frame and happiness the content”.

Ultimately, self-reflection and winnowing away the competing branches of their identities bring each of the four main characters to a state of peace – which is a different place of realization for each. In the end, Tomas is as happy as he ever was, despite having given up his career and his womanizing because he was no longer bound to competing goals. Tereza has less to give up since love was the only thing that had meaning to her all along, but peace for her comes from finding a level of empathy that had been missing. By contrast, Sabrina is most comfortable drifting alone, while Franz finally tunes out the imaginary voices guiding him, so that he can focus on his own reality (albeit tragically too late). Even Marie-Claude is freed from the ungracefulness of being married to find peace in widowhood.


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