The Unberable Lightness of Being

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The Unberable Lightness of Being

By | July 2008
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Henningfeld is a professor of English literature and composition who writes widely for educational and reference publishers. In this essay, Henningfeld argues that Sabina's paintings and Tereza's photographs call into question the "truth" of representational art. The Unbearable Lightness of Being is a novel that functions on many different levels and consequently offers the scholar a host of literary theoretical positions to argue. The sheer number of ways the book has been read indicates this complexity. There are those who see it primarily as an exploration into the notion of love. Others see it as a dramatic account of the Russian invasion of Czechoslovakia. It is also possible to read the novel as a philosophical study, starting with Kundera's fascination with Fredriech Nietzsche and Par-menides. Still other literary critics focus on the novel's structure in that it emulates a musical composition such as a fugue or symphony, with its introduction and reintroduction of themes and events. Finally, many scholars find the oppositions in the novel worthy of close attention. In his book Milan Kundera and Feminism: Dangerous Intersections, John O'Brien chooses to develop yet another reading, one asserting that Sabina's painting offers a clear alternative to oppo-sitional thinking, and in this respect I believe Kundera presents Sabina's theory and practice of painting not only as a focal point of this novel, but also as a paradigm for understanding his work in general. Instead of reproducing surfaces that insist on a totalizing "intelligible lie," Kundera's novels, like Sabina's paintings, turn our attention to the deeper paradoxes, but ... at the expense of the surface representations. In this insistence on and dramatization/staging of double vision, Kundera's novels do not just invite a deconstructionist perspective, but incorporate decon-structionist theory at the level of content. Such a statement requires some unpacking. O'Brien's critical approach is to see...
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