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Milan Kundera

Unbearable Lightness of Being


Unbearable Lightness of Being

pg. 19: Compassion

pg. 29
His love for Tereza was beautiful, but also tiring: he had constantly had to hide things from her, sham, dissemble, make amends, buck her up, calm her down, give her evidence of his feelings, play the defendant to her jealousy, her suffering, and her dreams, feel guilty, make excuses and apologies. Now what was tiring had disappeared and only the beauty remained.

pg. 33
Any schoolboy can do experiments in the physics laboratory to test various scientific hypotheses. But man, because he has only one life to live, cannot conduct experiments to test whether to follow his passion (compassion) or not.

pg. 58

pg. 121
When we want to give expression to a dramatic situation in our lives, we tend to use metaphors of heaviness. We say that something has become a great burden to us. We either bear the burden or fail and go down with it, we struggle with it, win or lose. And Sabina - what had come over her? Nothing. She had left a man becouse she felt like leaving him. Had he persecuted her? Had he tried to take revenge on her? No. Her drama was a drama not of heaviness but of lightness. What fell to her lot was not the burden but the unbearable lightness of being.

pg. 139
What is flirtation? One might say that it is behaviour leading another to believe that sexual intimacy is possible, while preventing that possibility from becoming a certainty. In other words, flirting is a promise of sexual intercourse without a guarantee.

I have said before that metaphors are dangerous. Love begins with a metaphor. Which is to say, love begins at the point when a woman enters her first word into our poetic memory.

pg. 219
Human life occurs only once, and the raeson we cannot determine which of our decisions are good and which are bad is that in a given situation we can make only one decision; we are not granted a second, third or fourth life in which to compare various decisions.
On Saturday and Sunday, he felt the sweet lightness of being rise up to him out of the depths of the future. On Monday, he was hit by a weight the likes of which he had never known. The tons of steel of the Russian tanks were nothing compare with it. For there is nothing heavier than compassion. Not even one's own pain weighs so heavy as the pain one feels with someone, for someone, a pain intesified by the imagination and prolonged by a hundred echoes.

pg. 220
Einmal ist keinmal. What happens but once might might as well not have happened at all. The history of Czechs will not be repeated, nor will be the history of Europe. The history of the Czechs and of Europe is a pair of sketches from the pen of mankind's fateful inexperience. History is as light as individual humal life, unbearably light, light as a feather, as dust swirling into the air, as whatever will no longer exist tomorrow.

pg. 234
Attaching love to sex is one of the most bizarre ideas the Creator ever had.

pg. 243

pg. 266

pg. 295
...And therein lies the the whole of man's plight. Human time does not turn in a circle; it runs ahead in a straight line. That is why man cannot be happy: happiness is the longing for repetition.


pg. 30: This was the most difficult thing to explain: that she needed to know how they were, even though at the same time she had no desire whatever to see them or to be with them.

pg. 35: "Just imagine living in a world without mirrors. You'd dream about your face and imagine it is an outer reflection of what is inside you. And then, when you reach forty, someone put a mirror before you for the first time in your life. Imagine your fright! You'd see a face of a stranger. And you'd know quite clearly what you are unable to grasp: your face is not you."

pg. 42: The marital bed: the altar of marriage; and when one says altar, one implies sacrifice...Not being able to fall asleep and not allowing oneself to move> the marital bed.

pg. 78: Man reckons with immortality, and forgets to reckon with death.

pg. 136: The emotion of love gives all of us a misleading illusion of knowing each other.