This book was another gift from my ex, Matt the man who thinks too much. He handed it to me saying that this book had deeply affected him and he'd thought it very beautiful too. I set about reading it and soon came across a passage that I thought was a secret message from him to me. It related to types of lovers: those who you want to sleep, versus those you have a perhaps deeper love for which makes sleeping next to them just as wonderful. At the time of reading this section I was standing on the platform of Leicester Square Underground station. I audibly gasped and slammed the book down by my side. Matt had sent me some messages about the fact he'd loved sleeping next to me. Matt was telling me he loved me wasn't he? I underlined the passage and then snapped a picture and sent it to him.
"Is this what you were talking about", I demanded.
"Yes", Matt replied, "just that you weren't one or the other you were both".
This confused me. Did he love me or didn't he? The situation hadn't changed at all. Matt was being as obtuse as ever.
The story is broadly linear, following a relationship between a woman called Tereza who, whilst working as a waitress meets a Doctor called Tomas, falls in love and turns up on his doorstep in Prague. He finds he has fallen for her too but cannot stop his philandering causing her much pain. Along the way we hear the story of his mistress Sabina, an artist who is running away from life's heavy commitments as well as the story of Sabina's later lover Franz, a university lecturer who escapes from a loveless marriage.
Due to the fact that The Unbearable Lightness of Being is a meandering novel, which often goes over the same small occurrences in life, adding different thoughts, conclusions and details, it is not a rip-roarer of a read. At one point after the book had circled itself again I wondered that Matt had seen in it that he wanted me to understand. So I decided to ask him one day over dinner. To Matt the book was a comment on life, the fact that we always return to the same thoughts. That events do not end, because in our minds we repeat them, reinterpret them for ever more. History and our lives shift and do not stay as a constant being. In my own way I interpreted this as Matt telling me that our time together would never truly be over. The memories could be revisited and we could reinterpret them over and over, reliving them to form new versions of ourselves.
However the "lightness of being" is an idea opposed to this eternal reoccurrence. It suggests the idea that things only happen once and hold little significance at all. It is merely people who add weight to events. Tereza assigns weight to the fact that is playing when she first meets Tomas. It is a sign to her that this is a special man who will be important to her life. However the narrator points out this could be a mere coincidence - a light event.
I take the novel to be a debate between "weight" or "lightness" - Tereza or Sabina. Do you think life is determined by fate or that you chose your own path completely? For me the act of reading this book also included me in this struggle - whether I could find deep meaning from the man who gave me the book or to simply think it was given to me because it was a good read. I certainly feel that I err on the side of weight.