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July 15, 2007

By-The-Numbers Book Reviews

The Unbearable Lightness of Being is something like 65% of the greatest book ever written and 35% of something you wrote for a freshman philosophy class and are now embarrassed of.

July 15, 2007 in Books | Permalink


i've never read the book, but this is the funniest book review I've read in a long time.

Posted by: Isabel | Jul 15, 2007 8:04:12 PM

Actually I think the book is more the latter than the former.

The movie is pretty damn sexy, though.

Posted by: Kathy G. | Jul 15, 2007 8:16:09 PM

That's about right, but the 65% is well worth it.

Posted by: TWAndrews | Jul 15, 2007 8:21:09 PM

Also note that, for the hetero male reader, it's 65% things you want to read aloud to a young lady, 35% things you never, ever want that young lady to realize.

Posted by: SDM | Jul 15, 2007 9:12:57 PM

One of my favorite movies, but even better is the soundtrack with the music of Leos Janacek.

Posted by: Eric H. | Jul 15, 2007 9:44:12 PM

That 65% is truly sublime, though. And that's based on the translation into English. I can't imagine how good it might have been in the original Czech.

Posted by: mrgumby2u | Jul 16, 2007 1:26:46 AM

I think some of that retrospective embarrassment may be headed your way.

Posted by: berger | Jul 16, 2007 8:51:40 AM

It's been a long time since I read it, but I still put it up there in the pantheon. I think his post-communist work has suffered (and he now writes in French, which is amazing to me) by the lack of what was really central to his work -- living in an oppressive society, but I think THe Unbearable Lightness of Being shows an artist at the top of his game. I also have high regard for "The Book of Laughter and Forgetting."

I think part of being a great artist is to not fear embarrassing yourself. That's why I'm a lawyer. Okay, I also lack talent too. But I think the best novelists sometimes overreach and the results can be cringe inducing, but in the end, who wouldn't kill (metaphorically speaking) to have written this novel?

Posted by: Klein's Tiny Left Nut | Jul 16, 2007 9:26:23 AM

Half the fun of reading an amazing book by a world renowned author is marveling at their silly philosophies and half baked ideas. It's what makes them human.

Posted by: Keith | Jul 16, 2007 9:51:42 AM

Bizzare, I just read it for the first time this weekend completely coincidentally. Small world. I'd put the number at more like 75%/25%. Also the last third is by far the best.

Posted by: Sam Boyd | Jul 16, 2007 9:54:18 AM

"Book of Laughter and Forgetting" is what I have read, also with admiration. I will always remember Kundera predicting the time when everyone is so busy writing that no one will read anymore.

Posted by: bob mcmanus | Jul 16, 2007 10:22:25 AM

85%/15% . . . and "The Book of Laughter and Forgetting" is indeed marvelous (the story of the three archangels is truly amazing).

Posted by: Morris Berg | Jul 16, 2007 12:40:10 PM

I love that you just wrote that.

Could not agree more.


Posted by: jasmine | Jul 16, 2007 12:51:54 PM

That 35% is probably what prompted him to write a few years later that Part 6 of his novel Immortality, which is actually much better than Unbearable Lightness, should actually be called the Unbearable Lightness of Being and that he got it wrong the first time around.

Posted by: Patrick | Jul 16, 2007 4:50:01 PM

Hmmm. I think it is a good framework for other books:
Moby Dick is about 50% the best thing you'll ever read, and 50% painful drudge through ruminations on whales and whaling.

Posted by: think twice | Jul 16, 2007 6:01:10 PM

Funny, but unimportant.

Unbearable Lightness is a series of abstract meditations (I wrote my undergrad thesis on mainly this work). What saves the book from sophomorism is that it stays relatively light-hearted while peppering the story with abstract ruminations. I predict time will treat it well.

BTW, Penelope Fitzgerald's Blue Flower has a different feel to it, but it's the closest thing I've seen to Unbearable Lightness. (Detailing the short romantic life of Novalis). It knocked the breath out of me.

Posted by: Robert Nagle | Jul 17, 2007 3:21:26 AM

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