Monday, March 26, 2007

A few choice quotes from "The Unbearable Lightness Of Being" by Milan Kundera

Starts slowly with quite a philosophical bent, but becomes really compelling once the main characters are introduced. Some memorable quotes:

Happiness
"If Kerenin had been a person instead of a dog, he would surely have long since said to Tereza, 'Look, I'm sick and tired of carrying that roll in my mouth every day. Can't you come up with something different?' And therein lies the whole of man's plight. Human time does not turn in a circle; it runs ahead in a straight line. That is why man cannot be happy: happiness is the longing for repetition."

Love
"The brain appears to possess a special area which we might call poetic memory and which records everything that charms or touches us, that makes our lives beautiful... Their love story did not begin until afterwards: she fell ill and he was unable to send her home as he had the others. Kneeling by her as she lay sleeping in his bed, he realized that someone had sent her downstream in a bulrush basket. I have said before that metaphors are dangerous. Love begins with a metaphor. Which is to say, love begins at the point when a woman enters her first word into our poetic memory."

A feeling of importance
"We all need somebody to look at us. We can be divided into four categories according to the kind of look we wish to live under. The first category longs for the look of an infinite number of anonymous eyes, in other words, for the look of the public...
The second category is made up of people who have a vital need to be looked at by many known eyes. They are the tireless hosts of cocktail parties and dinners...
Then there is the third category, the category of people who need to be constantly before the eyes of the person they love. Their situation is as dangerous as the situation of people in the first category. One day the eyes of their beloved will close, and the room will go dark..
And finally there is the fourth category, the rarest, the category of people who live in the imaginary eyes of those who are not present. They are the dreamers."

Kitsch
"Kitsch is the absolute denial of shit, in both the literal and the figurative senses of the word; kitsch excludes everything from its purview which is essentially unacceptable in human existence...
Kitsch causes two tears to flow in quick succession. The first tear says: How nice to see children running on the grass! The second tear says: How nice to be moved, together with all mankind, by children running on the grass! It is the second tear that makes kitsch kitsch. The brotherhood of man on earth will be possible only on a basis of kitsch...
And no one knows this better than politicians. Whenever a camera is in the offing, they immediately run to the nearest child, lift it into the air, kiss it on the cheek. Kitsch is the aesthetic ideal of all politicians and all political parties and movements...
In the realm of totalitarian kitsch, all answers are given in advance and preclude any questions. It follows, then that the true opponent of totalitarian kitsch is the person who asks questions...
From that time on, she [Sabina] began to insert mystifications into her biography, and by the time she got to America she even managed to hide the fact that she was Czech. It was all merely a desperate attempt to escape the kitsch that people wanted to make of her life."

39 comments:

Oblivious said...

thanks for posting those quotes, i was trying to dig one of those up from the book and you saved me a good twenty mins. Not to mention the fact that we seemed to zero in on the same quotes. Cheers!

Gogo said...

Hi! I know this is a long shot here, but considering you've read the novel... Do you remember where the part where Kundera adapts the myth of the hermaphrodite from Aristophane? Or is it in another one of his novels...

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[PART 5, 23 (page 238)]

He suddenly recalled the famous myth from Plato's Symposium: People were hermaphrodites until God split them in two, and now all the halves wander the world over seeking one another. Love is the longing for the half of ourselves we have lost.

Beth Shirley said...

Can anyone elaborate on the part where Kundera talks about the law of three? I recall it had something to do with sleeping with someone only thrice...

Beth Shirley said...

Can anyone remember the Law of Three in the novel.. Where can I find it and what is the extended quote?

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, the novel is noth kitsch and shit.

Niko said...

the law of three is something like this: He can only sleep with someone every three weeks. and If he sleeps with someone three times in a month, he never sleeps with them again.

utin said...

The law of three in erotic frindships; only sleep together once every third week or three times in a row and then never again.

I found this regulation extremely amusing.

Forced Ambitions said...

Great post, thanks for sharing.

I've read this book once but am not sure where is "feeling of importance" bit mentioned ?

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Anonymous said...

does anyone know when franz says he will nto sleep with sabrina in his home tonw due to his current wife.. does anybody know the excat page number for that quote ?

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