The Unbearable Lightness of Being


I am in Prague and am reading the Unbearable Lightness of Being. It feels like Alain de Botton’s Essays on Love – a book I lent to someone and never got back. Milan Kundera’s book, I was recommended to read after I broke up from my first long-term relationship. I attempted it for the sake of my recommending friend but didn’t feel like philosophizing about matters of the heart back then.

Today I read the bit where it’s describing the 1968 Soviet invasion of Prague. Tereza, the female protagonist is a press photographer:

“She shot roll after roll and gave about half of them, undeveloped, to foreign journalists (the borders were still open, and reporters passing through were grateful for any kind of document). Many of her photographs turned up in the Western press. They were pictures of tanks, threatening fists, of houses destroyed, of corpses covered with bloodstained red-white-and-blue Czech flags, of young men on motorcycles racing full speed around the tanks and waving Czech flags on long staffs, of young girls in unbelievably short skirts provoking the miserable sexually famished Russian soldiers by kissing random passers-by before their eyes. As I have said, the Russian invasion was not only a tragedy; it was a carnival of hate filled with a curious (and no longer explicable) euphoria” (66).

Today I also went to the Franz Kafka Museum. The exhibition includes photographs,  facsimiles of letters, timelines and a slideshow. The quietly gloomy atmosphere is pierced by a crow’s cry every other minute – the slideshow of Prague pictures quotes Kafka saying that the city is clutching him tight in its claws. My guidebook tells me some visitors find the place pretentious, but I found it just perfect evoking the mood in Kafka’s short stories. I especially liked the installation with three layers of translucent netting with sepia portraits on them, tautly circling a light bulb. So what you get is three copies of the same image, superimpısed on each other from the largest to the smallest; with its shadows shifting as you move right and left, and with a heart of flickering light.

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