The Unbearable Lightness of Being | Study Guide

Milan Kundera

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The Unbearable Lightness of Being | Part 2, Chapters 25–29 : Soul and Body | Summary

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Summary

Tereza declares in Chapter 25 that she does not need to be a photographer to be fulfilled: She can just be a wife. Chapter 26 takes place on the seventh day of the invasion of Czechoslovakia, and Tereza meditates on the weakness in Dubcek's voice over the radio. Tereza realizes she belongs "among the weak," because she is weak herself.

In Chapter 27 it is Karenin, the dog, who holds the marriage together in Switzerland by reestablishing rituals from Prague. Then Tereza answers the phone to a woman asking for Tomas, and it breaks her. She decides to return to Prague.

Tereza takes the train back to her flat in Prague in Chapter 28. She considers moving elsewhere in the country, but Tomas shows up after five days. While Tereza is at first unhappy with the burden Tomas's return represents, in Chapter 29 she recalls that he returned to her life at 6:00 p.m. This was the same time she had met him outside the restaurant after their first encounter, and this coincidence makes her happy because it seems to her fate smiles on them once again.

Analysis

In these chapters Tereza continues to struggle with defining her identity. Her attempt to "become" Tomas was unsuccessful, and so she declares she is fulfilled in the role of wife. This is akin to the "intelligible lie" on the surface of Sabina's paintings. Try as she might to appear happy in public and in front of Tomas, Tereza still experiences the "unintelligible truth" underneath that she is too weak to live a life where Tomas refuses to see her soul.

As a Czech in Switzerland, Tereza feels even more displaced. Because she is a foreigner, she has to walk "the tightrope high above the ground without [a] net." She fears having to live her whole life dependent on Tomas for everything, so returning to her country appeals to her sense of identity. Both she and her country are weak and therefore belong together. She gives in to the vertigo that has plagued her for years and leaves Tomas. Kundera suggests vertigo is "the intoxication of the weak." Once she surrenders to vertigo, Tereza wishes to destroy any link she has to Tomas. But Tomas returns, and because chance and fate would have it that he arrives at 6:00 p.m., she sees this as a sign that they are indeed meant to be together.

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