Sunday, May 02, 2004

"There is too much spilt politics in The Unbearable Lightness for its own good. What is remarkable, however, is that a work so firmly rooted in its time has not dated. "

Great Guardian piece by John Banville on Kundera's The Unbearable Lightness of Being, to which I can only add that this is a book that really truly sounds good, too. Besides reading it a couple of times, I've also heard it more than once on audiotape, and it's absolutely hypnotic. I've learned through experience to avoid listening to classic or complex novels on tape; sentences that require some pondering fly past you too quickly, and it's hard -- for me anyway -- to focus on what's being said and to keep the plot together between drives. But this one is completely different; it's that odd kind of novel that is simple and complex at the same time. It tells a very fractured story of the lives of Tomaz, his wife Tereza, his lover Sabina, and Sabina's lover Franz; a story that, like a lot of modernist or postmodern novels, flies at us in random pieces, in between which Kundera will discourse on any number of philosophical or political topics, all of which he dispatches with a marvelously sharp but economic prose that lends itself well to being read aloud.

Banville's right to say it hasn't dated at all; it's not just about Czechoslovakia's "Prague Spring," but about the emotional and personal underpinnings of oppression and freedom; it's one of those books that is both about it's time -- and all time.

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