"Chance and chance alone has a message for us. Everything that occurs out of necessity, everything expected, repeated day in and day out, is mute. Only chance can speak to us. We read its messages as gypsies read the images made by coffee grounds at the bottom of the cup."
Kundera builds on this idea - talking about weight and lightness as also fate ( both its acknowledgement and lack thereof !) . On one hand, there is the sixth century Greek philosopher Parmenides who saw the world as pairs of opposites while labeling lightness as positive and weight as negative. And then there is Beethovan, who unlike Parmenides, considered weight as positive. Beethovan ( and music per se) plays an important role in the Unbearable Lightness of Being as also Kundera's other works influenced by his own musical background. Kundera's father was an important Czech musicologist and pianist who served as the head of a music academy. Kundera himself studied musicology and his understanding of music is reflected in his work. Beethovan in some ways is the starting of Tomas and Tereza's love story which begins with a serendipitous visit which brings Tomas to the hotel restaurant in Tereza's small town where just as she is taking the order for his Cognac, Beethovan music is playing on the radio. Tereza ( to whom Beethovan is a door to the world she yearns for as is Tolstoy's Anna Karenina - a copy of which she carries at a number of points in the story) later buys Beethovan sonatas and quartets for Tomas. The last movement of Beethovan's last quartet is based on the following two motifs: Muss ess sein? Es muss sein! Es muss sein! ( Must it be? It must be! It must be!) ....must fate be as it is? The story in its non linear style takes one back and forth to this question both in lives of its characters while prodding the reader to reflect on their own rendezvous with fate and the idea of eternal return. Then there are myths : Freudian dreams, Plato's symposium and Sophocles's Oedipus - all of which make for what is not an unbearably light though enjoyable circular reading especially if you are philosophically inclined.
One of my favorite parts is the point where Kundera analysis four kinds of people based on the kind of look we wish to live under : The first category longs for the look of an infinite number of anonymous eyes, in other words, for the look of the public. The second category is made up of people who have a vital need to be looked at by many known eyes. They are the tireless hosts of cocktail parties and dinners. Then there is the third category, the category of people who need to be constantly before the eyes of the person they love. And finally there is the fourth category, the rarest, the category of people who live in the imaginary eyes of those who are not present. They are the dreamers. The book was written in 1982. That was the year when Intel 80286 was released, first luggable computer was introduced and Apple became the first personal computer manufacturer to hit $1 billion mark for annual sales. Fast forward to the next millennium to the age of facebook, twitter and our many virtual worlds. Which kind of person are you?
Image information: The image is from http://www.flickr.com/photos/lokar/3345753029/