The Emperor’s Old Clothes: Revisiting The Unbearable Lightness of Being

Unbearable Lightness of Being (1)Like many, I first read The Unbearable Lightness of Being in the 1980s. And like most, I loved it then. And what was there not to love? It mixed sex, politics and philosophy in a way that was light years removed from the hand-wringing sensitivities of much of the literature in the 1970s. Instead, it was sharp, contemporary, urbane and in tune with the gritty final years of the Cold War where Prague was a hip place on the wrong side of the Iron Curtain.

Kundera, the Czech émigré who started out with darkly satirical novels lampooning the communist regime (The Joke, for example) artistically came into his own after being forced to leave his country. In the last decade of the Cold War he published the three novels that defined him as a writer: The Book of Laughter and Forgetting, The Unbearable Lightness of Being and Immortality. His enduring fame, though, rests squarely with the second on this list, no doubt helped along by the 1988 movie of the same name staring Daniel Day Lewis and Juliette Binoche. Continue reading “The Emperor’s Old Clothes: Revisiting The Unbearable Lightness of Being”

(Not So) Bella Napoli

Neapolitan Quartett - CopyI have been a relative latecomer to Elena Ferrante’s phenomenally successful Naples quartet, starting to read it only around the time the fourth and last instalment, The Story of the Lost Child, was published. What initially intrigued me to pick up the novels was a short article in the New Yorker describing the hype surrounding the publication of the fourth books with bookshops staying open late and putting on special events to allow fans to get their hands on the latest volume as soon as the sales embargo expired at midnight – something usually reserved for Harry Potter or Dan Brown type blockbusters rather than literary novels in translation

I opened the first novel of the series, My Brilliant Friend, with apprehension. Would the book be able to live up to the hype, to the almost universal praise heaped upon it? I needn’t have worried. I was hooked virtually straightaway and have since devoured the four volumes in as many weeks with the zeal of the recently converted. Continue reading “(Not So) Bella Napoli”