The Unbearable Lightness of Being – Milan Kundera

“A person who longs to leave the place where he lives is an unhappy person.’

Date Completed: August 13 2017
Page Length: 320

The Unbearable Lightness of Being was, for me, one of those books that you’ve heard of but don’t know anything about. Someone had probably mentioned it at uni, and I know a Gossip Girl episode is named after it (The Unblairable Lightness of Being).

How I came to finally read this book came from two coincidences. While working at a bar on a remote cattle station in North Queensland I met a worker from one of the neighbouring stations. He was a skinny man with sandy blonde hair and blood on his shirt from branding cattle. He drank scotch and coke which he like to be served as a nip in each of two glasses and a can of coke. This saved him just under a dollar but added up over the afternoon since he had over ten rounds. As he was a chatty sort of drinker (you know the kind, doesn’t shut up, loves to ask you to show him your tits) and so I quickly realised he was not just a crude drunk but also an avid reader. He couldn’t remember the books name but started describing The Unbearable Lightness of Being.  I supplied the name, which came to mind because of his copious use of the word lightness in his description. He recommended the book heavily.

I could go on about what else he said and the bar fight he was in the next night but that’s all a different story. The point is his recommendation of the book planted it much more vividly in my mind the Gossip Girl pun ever could, and so I was in prime position to recognise it when browsing the shelves of a second-hand bookshop in Ravenshoe a week later.

I didn’t buy the book.

The truth was, by the end of his second visit to the bar I was sick of his vulgar jokes, comments about my breasts and my partner and I thought he was overall a very annoying, and pathetic sort of person (even though I admired his love of reading. It was very conflicting for me). I just didn’t want to buy a book he recommended. But by the time we reached Roma, over a month later, some of that initial distaste had worn off and I saw the book again, this time in an op shop for $2.

I bought it and holy crap am I glad I did.

It is a book full of universal truths. Truths in which you recognise yourself and the world around you. Zigzagging through time and without any discernible plot, in the hands of anyone else this book would have been a struggle. However, I found it a breeze and a joy. Kundera entices you onwards with subtle surrealism, vivid relationships and, again, those undeniable truths.

Read this book. You won’t be disappointed. You can have the drunk with a bloody shirt and my word for it.

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