I used to only read books that entertained me….now I think I prefer the kind that challenge me. Books that force me to look upon the world and peer into all of her dark corners. We are told that we need to stop and smell the roses….but what about the dark stuff too? Y’know….that dark stuff we call human nature….
This book has a few main characters, but centers mostly on Tomas and Tereza. This is a book that is odd in its writing style, but it suited the book perfectly. It is not only written by Milan Kundera, it is also narrated by him. It is almost as if he has thought out what he wants the book to be and then sits down to present it to a potential reader. He explains what is happening to the characters, explains their thoughts and actions as if he is looking down upon them from above, watching them as if they are players on a stage. He wants the reader to not only see what is going on with the characters, he wants them to understand it as well….
First, the book itself….wow…just wow…This one has opened my eyes wide…..We all have our romantic images of love. We all have our “Darcys” of the world…our “Roarkes” of the world…but what about an honest look at love? Darcy and his kind show us a romantic love…but this book shows you an honest love.
How many of us justify our wrongs by telling ourselves what we want to hear? How many times do we hurt one another and then blame it on our nature? How many times do we promise ourselves we will change and then slip back into the our old ways, justifying it by telling ourselves that it has always been that way with us. Yes, Tomas is very selfish. But he was selfish from day one, so whose fault is it if others are hurt?
On the flip side of that, how many others take the wrongs that we feel and justify them? This is Tereza. She doesn’t try to reason or change her husband’s many hurts. She only blames herself for not being enough. In her own way, she too, is just as selfish! It is all about her.
Do we make excuses for others just as much as we do ourselves? If we love someone enough, what lengths will we go to make their actions part of “our script”? How long will we let it play along until we come to the ending that we have imagined in our mind?
In real life, is this not how it is? Do we not have thousands of little conversations within our own mind that we would never dare share with someone else? Well, Kundera does exactly that. He dares to say out loud what should never be voiced. The thoughts we ALL have and never voice….The dirty little lies that we have all thought….knowing in one part of us that it is wrong, but if we continue to tell them, we might just come to believe them one day…
yes the countless love affairs are outrageous and it will turn many away from the book right away. There is a lot of sex in this book, and that to will turn many away…it is not romantic love…this is all about selfish love. For me, it was about how selfish human nature is. No, it doesn’t mean that we are all selfish, but if we are honest, our first thoughts are of ourselves, is it not? Even if we are thinking of others, it is still with thoughts of ourselves. We can talk ourselves out of anything. This novel makes it perfectly clear that we can also talk ourselves into anything as well…if that is what we desire.
Kundera paints a picture with beautiful flowing words that we long to take in….but as soon as we take those words in, we can taste the bitterness that they cause. He lets us know that the lies we tell others always start with the lies that we tell ourselves.
Tereza is with Tomas only because she has created a romantic image of love and how it will be. She looks for the signs she wants to see and finds them….if she hasn’t decided that it was to be Tomas, she could have found those same signs in any other man….but because she picked him…based on a single moment in time, she is bound and determined to make it into what she desires it to be….no matter the cost…
The author goes to the extreme in this novel to point out the obvious. But sometimes that is what it takes. If one were to read this book at face value they would only see Tomas as a man who has dozens of lovers…but what one might overlook is how hard it becomes for Tomas to continue to justify his actions, even to himself, because of his love for Tereza. It is a love he is afraid of. One he can not imagine living with….or without….He too had imagined his life in a certain way…a way where he would not be tied down to any one person. Now he feels that he is *forced* into this difficult position through no fault of his own…yet he is powerless to walk away…
As each character struggles with their choices and their own thoughts, you have Kundera, the author, looking down from above just laughing at their follies. He laughs with great affection to be sure, but it is also with great amusement as well.
I listened to this book and await a hard copy to look at, so it is difficult to review without the actually book, but this is a book that I stayed up late into the hours pondering, long after I had stopped actually listening to it…
Until next time….