Essay on Unbearable Lightness of being

1044 Words 5 Pages
A touching and sad novel, at once a compelling love story, philosophical text, and dialogue with Frederich Nietzsche -- The Unbearable Lightness of Being is all of these and more, perhaps most importantly a manifesto of embracing nihilism.
Milan Kundera opens the novel with a discourse on Nietzsche's doctrine of the eternal recurrence. He rejects any view of the recurrence as being real or metaphysical. It is metaphorical he assures us. In a world of objective meaninglessness one must fall into nihilism unless one acts as if one's acts recur eternally, thus giving our acts "weight," the weight of those choices we make, as though recurring eternally, living forever. Kundera rejects Nietzsche's optimism and in compelling detail
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Tomas follows in a few days, knowing that somehow this is crazy and he is condemning himself to misery, but he must go, it is his fate and he returns. In a second incident he had published a letter to the editor in a newspaper which explored the notion of being responsible for acts whether or not one KNEW the outcome. His model case was Oedipus who had no idea he was violating so many social and moral rules of his society. Tomas is speaking about those in Czechoslovakia who acted in a similar manner toward the Russians. Later on this is taken as a socially subversive point of view and he is asked to retract. For reasons he himself hardly understands he refuses and his refusal causes him to be banned as a physician and condemned to low-level manual labor, first in Prague and later on a collective farm in a rural area.
But even these choice are more his fate than a choice of meaning. The notion of fate, or what Nietzsche refers to as "amor fati" (love of fate) is the notion that nature somehow presents us with situations which we cannot escape and we simply have to bear them. Tomas must accept and bear his love for Tereza no matter how painful and hopeless. He must accept his Oedipus letter no matter the consequences. Yet, even this acceptance cannot escape the ultimate "unbearable lightness of being," the meaninglessness of all our acts in a world in which our acts simply don't live forever.
Kundera says in the last pages of
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