The Unbearable Lightness of Being had a remarkable success when it was published in English in 1984 (this autumn will see an anniversary edition from Faber). Here was an avowedly “postmodern” novel in which the author withheld so many of the things we expect from a work of fiction, such as rounded characters – “It would be senseless for the author to try to convince the reader that his characters once actually lived” – a tangible milieu, a well-paced plot, and in which there are extended passages of straightforward philosophical and political speculation, yet it became a worldwide bestseller, loved by the critics and the public alike. —John Banville reviews Kundera’s The Unbearable Lightness of Being.
—Light but sound (Guardian)
I was a little disapointed that so few of my “American Literature, 1915-present” actually read the last novel on the syllabus, William Gibson’s Pattern Recognition. Many said they just simply couldn’t get into it — at least not while spring weather competed for their attention. I don’t remember what time of year I read The Unbearable Lightness of Being as an undergraduate, but I do remember being resistant to its message when I first read it. I must have skipped one of the classes we spent on it, because when I read the ending shortly before the final exam, I recall being surprised and impressed.I’m sure this book is one of the boxes I still haven’t unpacked from my latest move. It’s not one of my favorite books, but maybe I’ll at least re-read a few of my favorite passages — as a kind of antidote to the “You’ll forget everything you learned here, go back to your room and smoke a joint” rhetoric of the commencement speech Stan Sheetz just gave here at SHU.