LITERATURE: The Unbearable Lightness – “kitsch”

I’m getting into some heavy shit here as Kundera moves into the realm of kitsch. For me, it’s both a revelation of the times in a foreign place (since the novel is contemporary to me) and an exquisite explanation of not only Communism, but of human nature in our desire to paint the world the way we see it.

The senator stopped the car in front of a stadium with an artificial skating rink, and the children jumped out and started running along the expanse of grass surrounding it.  Sitting behind the wheel and gazing dreamily after the four little bounding figures, he said to Sabina, "Just look at them." (…) "Now, that’s what I call happiness."

(…) How did the senator know that children meant happiness? Could he see into their souls? What if, the moment they were out of sight, three of them jumped the fourth and began beating him up?"  (p. 250)

What Kundera leads us to is the Prague of the time, mini revolutions amidst the takeover Russians. What people tell themselves is all right to accept, often bred of survival, yet often, just man’s own way of wanting to believe that things are normal, life is okay. The only way we can do this sometimes is to smile.

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