Course Hero. "The Unbearable Lightness of Being Study Guide." Course Hero. 16 Mar. 2018. Web. 22 June 2018. <https://www.coursehero.com/lit/The-Unbearable-Lightness-of-Being/>.
Course Hero. (2018, March 16). The Unbearable Lightness of Being Study Guide. In Course Hero. Retrieved June 22, 2018, from https://www.coursehero.com/lit/The-Unbearable-Lightness-of-Being/
(Course Hero, 2018)
Course Hero. "The Unbearable Lightness of Being Study Guide." March 16, 2018. Accessed June 22, 2018. https://www.coursehero.com/lit/The-Unbearable-Lightness-of-Being/.
Course Hero, "The Unbearable Lightness of Being Study Guide," March 16, 2018, accessed June 22, 2018, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/The-Unbearable-Lightness-of-Being/.
Before the country divided into the Czech Republic and Slovakia in 1993, it existed as Czechoslovakia from 1918. The Communist party of Czechoslovakia seized power in 1948 and aligned the country with the Soviet Union, becoming members of the Warsaw Pact in 1955. The Warsaw Pact was a treaty of "Friendship, Cooperation, and Mutual Assistance" between the Soviet Socialist Republics of the Soviet Union and its allied states in Eastern Europe, also known as the Communist Bloc or Eastern Bloc. By January 5, 1968, Alexander Dubcek became the head of the Communist party of Czechoslovakia. A reformist like Milan Kundera, Dubcek sought to loosen restrictions on certain areas of public life including media and travel. This period of increasing political liberty became known as the Prague Spring. It is particularly noteworthy for its freedom of the press, which allowed citizens to openly engage in discussion about the country's past and ongoing reforms.
Worried these reformist ideas might spread to other Communist Bloc countries and destabilize the Warsaw Pact, the Soviet leader, Leonid Brezhnev, called for talks with Dubcek. As negotiations proved unsatisfactory to Brezhnev, despite Dubcek's assurances of support for the Warsaw Pact, the Soviet Union decided on military intervention. On the night of August 20, 1968, armies from the Soviet Union and other Communist Bloc countries invaded Czechoslovakia. During the occupation, citizens took down road signs and gave soldiers incorrect directions to confuse them. Kundera references this resistance several times in The Unbearable Lightness of Being. Dubcek was forced to sign the Moscow Protocol, a document that stated he would uphold socialist ideals and limit the freedom of the press. In The Unbearable Lightness of Being, the character Tereza regards this capitulation as weak and sees her own weak identity within it. After the end of the Prague Spring, the Communist party ministers cracked down on intellectuals who expressed their controversial views during the brief period of press freedom. In the novel, this is Tomas's fate as well, and he is forced to resign his position. Over 300,000 Czech citizens immigrated to other countries as a result of the Soviet invasion and its consequences.
Kundera's narrator persona presents a number of philosophical arguments from well-known historical thinkers. Central to the novel is the discussion of eternal return, an idea put forth by the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche (1844–1900). In Nietzsche's view, since a human only lives one life, his life "is a like a shadow," ephemeral and weightless. To have weight, something must reoccur; the more often it reoccurs, the heavier it is, and the more meaning it has. The Unbearable Lightness of Being is Kundera's attempt to create eternal return for his characters and give meaning to their lives and his own.
Other major philosophers referenced include the following:
To explicitly question the relationship between fiction and reality, authors may employ metafictional techniques. In The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Kundera intentionally dispels the illusion inherent to self-contained works of fiction that the events and characters presented are real. Kundera's major departure from the fictional construct is to establish himself (or a crafted persona of himself, never making the distinction clear) as the author and narrator of the work.
Kundera uses a number of metafictional devices: