The Unbearable Lightness of Being opens with Friedrich Nietzsche‘s concept of eternal recurrence, the idea that everything has already occurred and will recur ad infinitum. How would the events of our life be, deprived of the soothing condition of their transience? Heavy. At the same time, how would we live without some heaviness, which provides the necessary values of grounding and integrity? The great opposition the author explores is the one between heaviness and lightness, exposed through love’s relationship dynamics.
Prague, the late 1960s; the four main characters are part of the artistic and intellectual life of Czech society, and are all linked by romantic or sexual relationships. From the Prague Spring of 1968 to the Invasion of the Soviet Union, Teresa, a photographer, anguishes about her husband’s infidelity, while he can’t help but reach out for his lover Sabina, an artist, who in turn can’t help but enjoy a relationship with a professor, who’s married. This cycle of infidelity, analyzed from the point of view of the heavy/light dichotomy, surprises with the powerful interdependence of these two elements.
The reader is captured by the quick pace of narration, immersed in an enchanting dance of opposites, and is deeply entertained by deducing, out of the complexity, the brilliant road of balance. Another book that opens with scientific and philosophical concepts, followed and explained by imaginative stories, is Cosmicomics by Italo Calvino.