Themes and Meanings

(Literary Essentials: World Fiction)

Fidelity and betrayal operate on both the personal and political levels in The Unbearable Lightness of Being. Kundera examines not only the metaphysics of two couples’ personal relationships but also the complex political scene in Czechoslovakia before and after the Soviet invasion of 1968. The Communist coup of 1948 is seen as a betrayal of Czechoslovakia’s right to self-determination, as an exercise in criminal futility by enthusiasts who thought they were on the road to paradise. Unfortunately, paradise never arrived, and the enthusiasts had to account for their murders and betrayals. President Antonin Novotny and the other Czech Stalinists who protested that they were innocent because they “didn’t know” were at least as guilty as Oedipus, who, Tomas argues, was punished for his crimes even though he was unaware at first of his real identity. The final betrayal comes in August, 1968, when Leonid Brezhnev directs the Warsaw Pact armies to invade Czechoslovakia to put an end to the reforms of Dubcek’s “socialism with a human face” because those reforms threaten neighboring regimes. The “Es muss sein” of Beethoven becomes the Marxist-Leninist alibi of historical inevitability for the numerous crimes of repression against unwilling client states.

After Tereza returns to Prague, she no longer blames Dubcek for his weakness in capitulating to Soviet pressure. She realizes that she belongs among the weak, among her people,...

(The entire section is 407 words.)


(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Despite its political observations. The Unbearable Lightness of Being, in contrast to The Book of Laughter and Forgetting, is much more...

(The entire section is 266 words.)