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The Unbearable Lightness of Being

Key Facts

Main ideas Key Facts

full title · The Unbearable Lightness of Being

author · Milan Kundera

type of work · Novel

genre · Love story; political novel; novel of ideas

language · Czech, translated into English by Michael Henry Heim; translation supervised/approved by author

time and place written · 1984, Paris

date of first publication · 1984

publisher · English translation: Harper and Row, Publishers, Inc

narrator · The author, Milan Kundera, or fictionalized version thereof

climax · A different climax can be identified in each of the character's stories; for Tomas, the arguable climax is his decision to return to Prague from the free West

protagonist · Tomas is main protagonist; other protagonists are Tereza, Sabina, and Franz

setting (time) · Mid 1960s to early 1980s

setting (place) · Prague; small town in Bohemia; Czech countryside; Switzerland; America

point of view · First person narration from author Kundera's point of view; follows alternately one then another character

falling action · Sabina wills body to be cremated after death, wonders if any betrayals are left in her life

tense · past tense

foreshadowing · constant, as author/narrator tells story non-chronologically and instead by ideas and associations

tone · cynical; amused; compassionate; contemplative

symbols · book; suitcase; bowler hat; stocking; signed document; tombstone

themes · lightness versus weight; politics; sexuality; death; human love

motifs · the body; kitsch; artwork; written texts

other · Partly autobiographical text; Kundera was a leftist in youth, a silenced intellectual in Prague after 1968, and a permanent émigré settled in Paris thereafter