Published in 1984, The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera focused the turbulent year of 1968 and the aftermath of the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia.
Kundera’s five characters, sugeon and intellectual Tomas, his photographer wife Tereza, Tomas’ mistress Sabina, her Swiss lover Franz, Simon, Tomas’ son from a previous marriage and Karenin, Tomas and Tereza’s dog, provide the insight into the dramatic changes to Czech society.
As the characters deal with the effects of the loss of freedoms and Communist rules, the history is revealed within their relationships. Based loosely on Nietzche’s theory of eternal recurrence, Kundera’s focus is that each person only has one life to live and must somehow deal with what he or she is given.
The beautiful prose of Kundera, originally written in Czech in 1982, was translated into French 1984 and published by Gallimard. Exiled book publishers 68 Publishers, based in Canada, published the Czech translation, with Faber & Faber publishing in the UK and Harper & Row in the US publishing the book in English.
Receiving accolades from reviewers and literary fans, the book was adapted for the big screen starring Daniel Day Lewis, Juliette Binoche, Stellan Skarsgard and Lena Olin in 1988.
Nominated for numerous awards including Oscar, Golden Globe, National Society of Film Critics Award, Independent Spirit Awards and Writers Guild of America Awards, the film won a BAFTA and Boston Film Critics Awards.
Despite the praise and the fact that Kundera was active during the making of the film, he said the film had nothing to do with the book, and has refused to consent to ever allow his books to be adapted for another medium ever again.
For culture fans, these two creations brought to light existentialism, history, politics, war, love and relationships, in the backdrop of Kundera’s Czechoslovakia.