This is one of those titles I’ve always heard of and felt like I should read but never actually got around to. I had no idea what the novel was about and kept confusing this novel and its author with Jonathan Safran Foer (Everything is Illuminated and The Unbearable Lightness of Being sound like titles that could be from the same person, right?). However, I’ve been trying to read more translated work this year and this fit in well with that goal. With that title, I have to say I was expecting a rather heavy read, but I was pleasantly surprised by just how approachable the novel was. That isn’t too say that it doesn’t touch on serious topics or that the author doesn’t spend a good time engaged in philosophical discussion, but the writing itself was accessible and contained a simple story to settle it.
The two main characters are Tomas and Tereza. He is a surgeon in Prague, and after a chance meeting (or one determined by fate depending on which character’s thoughts you go with), Tereza visits him in Prague, and eventually moves there to be with him. Tomas is a philanderer, and marriage and a relationship based on love are not what he was looking for, but he loves Tereza, and they get married. Tereza, of course, is miserable with the fact that even after marriage, Tomas continues to sleep with other women.