Rarely do I come across a book which stubbornly evades categorization of any kind, managing to keep the reader behind a veil of mystification till the very end. Like while you were reading, the book kept on giving you one insightful glimpse after another into the convoluted workings of the human psyche. But when it ended, whatever, the narrative managed to encapsulate within the scope of a few hundred pages, vanished in a puff of smoke without leaving any tangible proof of its prior existence.
I will, perhaps, be accused of being desperate about drawing correlations between the title 'The Unbearable Lightness of Being'
and my own experiences with the book, but as much as there maybe a little truth in that allegation, the book did make me feel exactly the way I stated. It made me experience a sort of dizzying lightness after I was done with it, made my existence seem like an inconsequential matter, as if I am always making more out of my life than what it actually is, just the way Tomas, Tereza, Franz and Sabina did.
Essentially, this is a novel of ideas, so flexible and rapidly altering, that it can easily bend itself to fit whatever shape one's mind is in. In fact I believe, different readers will arrive at different interpretations after reading.
While weaving its way in and out of the lives of its 4 main characters and their individual reflections on various subjects, the narrative manages to capture the throes of a nation caught in the vice-like grip of Soviet persecution in addition to losing its way occasionally in a thread of philosophical rumination.
What constitutes real suffering? Is the threat of Communism spreading over Eastern Europe the real malaise leading up to the continuous cycle of oppression perpetuated by totalitarian regimes or are all political ideologies capable of sowing seeds of future conflict? Are humans inherently averse to status quo or does there exist a general human resistance to both change and continuity? Does romantic love really entrench itself into the Platonic theory of finding the missing pieces of ourselves or is that just a mere attempt on our parts at dramatizing an utterly mundane occurrence? Is love the end-result of a fortunate crossing of two different paths or is it an amorphous entity which rests somewhere in the realm of the incomprehensible and the ineffable? Don't we often mistake commiseration for love, imagine our emotional attachment to people and places rather than actually experience it?
Milan Kundera leaves us with a lot of disturbing existential questions to ponder over but doesn't struggle to answer any one of them definitively, choosing, instead, to leave us in the middle of a fruitful discussion where the reader is as much a participant as the writer. Perhaps because there are no clear-cut answers to these questions. For as much as we strive to fish out meaning from the jumbled mess of our lives, accord some greater significance to each one of our decisions, actions or sentiments, eventually every one of them is steeped in the fundamental need for some deeply personal, even preposterous, wish fulfillment.
"....Because human lives are composed in precisely such a fashion. They are composed like music. Guided by his sense of beauty, an individual transforms a fortuitous occurrence (Beethoven's music, death under a train) into a motif, which then assumes a permanent place in the composition of the individual's life."
P.S.:- I'll never view the word 'kitsch' in the same way again.
P.P.S:- Do read it, if you haven't already.