Unbearable Lightness of Being – Famous Quotes


I manage to gather some quotes from the novel Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera. Feel free to add your favorite quotes as well.

  • There is no means of testing which decision is better because there is no basis for comparison. We live everything as it comes without warning.
  • The heavier burden, the closer we live on earth, the more real and truthful they become. Conversely, the absolute absence of burden causes a man to be lighter than air, to soar into the heights, take leave of the earth, and his earthly being, and become only half real, his movements as free as they are insignificant.
  • A person who longs to leave the place where he lives is an unhappy person.
  • Concentration camp is a world in which people live crammed together constantly night and day. Brutality and violence are secondary. It is the complete obliteration of privacy.
  • Flirting is a promise of sexual intercourse without guarantee.
  • Loves are like empires, when the idea they are founded on crumbles, they too, fade away.
  • Whether they know or didn’t know is not the main issue; the main issue is whether a man is innocent because he didn’t know. Is a fool on the throne relieved of all responsibility merely because he is a fool?
  • The pressure to make public retractions of past statements – there’s something midieval about it. What does it mean to retract what you have said? How can anyone state categorically that a thought he once had is no longer valid? In modern times, an idea can be refuted, yes but not retracted, and since to retract an idea is impossible, merely verbal, formal sorcery, I see no reason why you shouldn’t do as they wish. In a society run by terror, no statements whatsoever can be taken seriously. They are all forced, and it is the duty of every honest man to ignore them.
  • The ‘tell the truth’ imperative drummed into us by our mamas and papas functions so automatically that we feel ashamed of lying even to a secret policeman during an interrogation.
  • What is unique about  the “I” hides itself exactly in what is unimaginable about a person, all we are able to imagine is what makes everyone like everyone else, what people have in common. The individual “I” is what differs from the common stock, that is, what cannot be guessed or calculated, what must be unveiled, uncovered, unconquered.
  • Only sexuality does, the millionth part dissimilarity become precious, because, not accessible in public, it must be conquered.
  • In pursuit of knowledge, epic womanizers turn away from conventional feminine beauty, of which they quickly tire, and inevitably end up as curiosity collectors. They are aware of this and a little ashamed of it, and to avoid causing their friends embarassment, they refrain from appearing in public with their mistress.

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