Tomas does not enable Tereza to entirely escape the hated world of her childhood. She cannot leave behind her horror of indistinguishable bodies; just as Tereza's mother insisted that all bodies are the same, Tomas does not differentiate between Tereza's body and the bodies of other women. Tereza even briefly considers returning to her mother, partially because she desires to hurt Thomas.

Thinking constantly of Tomas's affairs, Tereza decides to try and make other women's bodies something she and Tomas share, rather than something that divides them. She befriends Sabina and goes to her studio, where Sabina shows her paintings and describes her artistic project. At a realist art school, Sabina accidentally dripped paint on a picture. This accident inspired her to make paintings in which a realistic, mundane world gets subverted by a crack or a rip showing a magical or abstract scene peeking through. Tereza understands Sabina's paintings and admires her. Tereza notices the bed in the studio where Sabina and Tomas have made love many times before. Tereza takes pictures of Sabina in a bowler hat, then asks her to take off her clothes. The two women drink and Sabina strips. After Tereza takes several photogr aphs, Sabina takes the camera and tells Tereza to strip. The command to strip is a familiar one to both women, as Tomas uses it frequently. Tereza takes off her clothes, and both women feel the eerie seduction of the moment; then Sabina laughs, dispelling the charged atmosphere, and both women dress.

During the Soviet tank invasion, Tereza finds new meaning in her photography, doing dangerous and ostensibly important work documenting the invasion. She photographs young Czech women torturing celibate Russian soldiers by parading in tiny miniskirts and kissing random passers-by. When she and Tomas move to Geneva, she takes these photos with her and offers them to a magazine. The editor tells Tereza that the photographs are beautiful but no longer timely, as the Czech invasion was popular a while ago. Te reza meets a female photographer with a nudist beach photo story. The "honest" depiction of ugly naked bodies horrifies Tereza, and she begins to think that her invasion photos are similarly horrifying in their depiction of the human body. Both photograph er and editor assure her that there is nothing ugly about the body.

The photographer invites Tereza to coffee and suggests Tereza try fashion photography, mentioning her photographs of the provocative Czech girls. In the meantime, she suggests Tereza shoot cactuses for the garden pages. Tereza responds that she does not need to work, as her husband can support her. The female photographer does not understand, and thinks Tereza is "anachronistic." Tereza says Tomas thinks so, too.

Tereza is miserable in Geneva; she has nothing to do while Tomas works in the hospital or sees other women. She thinks of her country and the politician Dubcek, who was weak and humiliated in the face of Soviet power. Tereza thinks she belongs in a country of the weak, and wishes Tomas were as weak as she. A phone call from a woman asking for Tomas sends her over the edge, and she returns to Prague with her dog Karenin.

In Prague she considers moving back to the small town she came from, or having an affair with some grotesque man, to hurt herself in some way and forget Tomas. Tomas arrives after five days, having followed her to Prague; his arrival makes Tereza realize that she did not leave the city because she was unconsciously hoping he would follow her.