The Unbearable Lightness of Being | Study Guide

Milan Kundera

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The Unbearable Lightness of Being | Part 6, Chapters 24–29 : The Grand March | Summary

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Summary

Kundera widens his circle of third-person narrators in Chapters 24 and 28 to include Simon, Tomas's son from his first marriage . The author classifies Simon as a dreamer, like Franz. In Chapter 24 Simon receives a summons from his father Tomas to come visit him in the country, and he does. The meeting goes well, and Simon feels more relaxed than during their first meeting years before. Four months later he receives a telegram saying his father and Tereza have died in a car crash. He learns of Sabina's existence and, desiring her approval, sends word to her as well.

Sabina continues to receive letters from Simon. She writes her will in Chapter 25, wishing to be cremated with her ashes scattered to the winds. She will be "lighter than air," she thinks. Parmenides's negative will change into the positive.

Chapter 26 returns the narrative gaze to Franz. He finally realizes the student-mistress is "his real life, his only real life." But then, after being attacked by thugs outside his hotel in Bangkok, he wakes up paralyzed in Geneva. Because of his paralysis, he is unable to tell Marie-Claude that he wishes to see his student-mistress, not her. By Chapter 27 Franz is dead and Marie-Claude celebrates her triumph as a wife at Franz's funeral. It is "the reward for her sufferings."

In Chapter 28 Simon chooses a gravestone inscription for Tomas. He feels he has "the right to express his father's life in his own words." Marie-Claude chooses one for Franz after inventing the narrative that he came back to her and "begged to be forgiven." Tomas's inscription reads "He Wanted the Kingdom of God on Earth," while Franz's reads, "A Return After Long Wanderings." Kundera states in Chapter 29 that before an individual is forgotten, he is "turned into kitsch."

Analysis

This last section of Part 6 reveals the final fates of Kundera's characters. The reader already knows that Tomas and Tereza die in a car accident, but Kundera adds the words Simon chooses for Tomas's gravestone. All that remains of Tomas is an inscription that espouses Simon's own idealistic philosophy, not that of Tomas.

Similarly, Franz is left with an inscription that shows Marie-Claude's parting shot to the husband who left her. As Marie-Claude said in Part 3, Chapter 9, "Love is battle." Marie-Claude "fought" until the end and won the right to call herself his widow. Death, Kundera contends, ends the battle with kitsch, and kitsch wins. It overcomes everyone in the end, a "stopover between being and oblivion." Does this mean, finally, that one cannot hope to achieve weight and meaning in life? Kundera seems to think so. Without eternal return, man is condemned to be irrelevant, his legacy at the mercy of chance.

Sabina is the only one still living among the major characters. She moves to California and feels free but empty. Bothered by the way "Tereza and Tomas had died under the sign of weight" (being hit by a car), Sabina writes a will that ensures she will "die under the sign of lightness." Whereas Tereza fought for meaning, Sabina seems to accept her own irrelevance.

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