December issues of different magazines
Disyembre 6 sa Kasaysayan ng Pilipinas
MUKHA NG NAKARAAN
Ang ika-32 pangulo ng America na si Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1882-1945),
tampok sa taklob-pahina ng Look Magazine December 6, 1938 issue.
Personalities and celebrities born on December 6:
1953 – Eddie “Emong Ed” Tongol Panlilio, Catholic priest and politician – in Minalin, Pampanga.
1982 – Chynna Ortaleza (full name Lara Serena Roque Ortaleza), actress, dancer, television host and entrepreneur – in Quezon City.
Chynna Ortaleza (from left to right): On the cover of Love Story Komiks No. 2274,
on page 40 of the first issue of Pump Magazine (for which she is also the first cover girl. see July 5),
and on the cover of Women’s Journal October 13, 2008 issue.
THE UNBEARABLE LIGHTNESS OF BEING
Franco-Czech novelist Milan Kundera’s novel Nesnesitelná lehkost bytí, first translated in English – The Unbearable Lightness of Being – by Michael Henry Helm, can be described as both complex and simple. Complex in the sense that he tried to explain different philosophies, from Friedrich Nietzsche to Parmenides, to Sophocles, running congruent to the narration of the novel and to the experiences and thoughts of the characters. Simple because of the quite-ordinary flow of the story mostly narrations and dialogues, differentiating love and lust, philosophy and emotion, and the plain male and female characterization of heaviness of life and “the unbearable lightness of being.”
I’m not a big fan of the German philosopher Nietzsche, whose concept of eternal recurrence of events Kundera tried to posit an alternative, but neither am I all-too-accepting of existentialism, which has so many contradictions.
In the novel Kundera attempts to identify why humans need companionship in life so badly, trying to understand the conflicting desires that humans possess and act upon. What makes a man leave the woman that he loves and is perfectly happy with and seek something indefinable in the arms of a mistress? Why does the same man sacrifice everything he has – social status, his profession, his life’s work and his “freedom” – only to go back to the same woman he left behind and chose to be with her despite going through different ordeals.
Three men, two women and a dog go through life experiences shaping the arguments of “the unbearable lightness of being.” Tomas is a work-obsessive surgeon who considers love and sex to be distinct entities, and firmly believes that there’s nothing wrong in copulating with many women and loving only his wife. Later, however, in his thought, “Attaching love to sex is one of the most bizarre ideas the Creator ever had.”
Tereza, the young wife of Tomas, is a photojournalist whose feelings of pain are numbed by his husband’s constant infidelities, yet her unending love prevailed over her melancholy in what is construed as fate.
Sabina, a Czech painter, which the novel epitomizes as the extreme example of “lightness,” lives her life worrying nothing and having profound pleasure in acts of betrayal, is Tomas’ mistress and maybe the exact diametrical opposite of his wife.
Franz is an idealist Geneva professor and Sabina’s lover, who is a kind and compassionate man that acts based on loyalty to his mother’s memories and to Sabina.
Simon is Tomas’ estranged son by an earlier marriage who corresponds with him with no return address. Tomas and Simon lived separate lives and having contrasting views on life and religious beliefs but seemingly going through the same life experiences.
Karenin is Tomas and Tereza’s dog, which played a vital role in the novel. Although a female, it was given a male name, Karenin, in reference to Alexei Karenin, the husband in Anna Karenina. Karenin displays extreme dislike of change. However, upon experiencing rural life, Karenin becomes more content as he is able to enjoy more attention from his owners. Sadly, Tomas discovers that Karenin has a tumor and even after removing it, the dog is going to die. On his deathbed Karenin unites Tomas and Tereza through his “smile” at their attempts to improve the dog’s health.
The novel is set in Prague during the 1968 Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia and its aftermath. Although a work of fiction, it details some real events and perhaps real life experiences.
Combining philosophy with romance is like mixing water with oil. While Kundera masterfully expressed the palm prints of a not-so-complicated love story, he tried connecting the purported events behind the story with the reasoning of existentialism while discussing the arguments of other philosophies. This somewhat is a turn-off. The danger of narrating the love story in such a manner is to prove beyond every reader’s doubt that the philosophy is indeed correct or at least have a semblance of feasibility. This he failed to do. He so much concentrated on what he perceived to be “unbearable” and “lightness” of every man’s existence that his philosophical thinking is going only in one direction. Although there were mediocre comparisons with the extremes – “heaviness of life” – it was not elaborated substantially. He incorporates this precept in his storyline. Towards the near-end of the story, his character Tomas tells his wife Tereza that he tried to separate his life from his son, Simon, but ends up seemingly running in a “parallel direction.” This theme is prevalent in the novel.
Another irrelevant conjecture Kundera mentioned in the novel is that which try to explain the Biblical “man was created in God’s image.” It’s a hairline short of blasphemous to even repeat his reasoning. Suffice to say that “divine intestine” and “shit” has nothing to do with it.
Kundera also made frequent mention of the word “kitsch,” which he describes as the “aesthetic ideal.” To him, it is “a world in which shit is denied and everyone acts as though it did not exist.” Looking up the dictionary, “kitsch” is a word of German origin, which means “ornate garbage.”
It is also interesting that some lines were possibly (or intentionally?) mis-appropriated. “Love is a battle, and I plan to go on fighting,” should have been perfect for Tereza but was delivered by Marie-Claude, Franz’s wife. The narration “When the heart speaks, the mind finds it indecent to object” would have been an argument for or against Tomas but was made in reaction to a question on happiness. This was after an American senator took Sabina for a drive and gave a definition of happiness when he saw four little children running along a large expanse of grass.
Most novels have a consoling note at the end. In Unbearable Lightness of being, it’s the outcome that despite the intricacies of different philosophical intrusions, despite the tragedies in the lives of the characters, despite Tomas’ womanizing and being banned from practicing his medical profession, despite Tereza’s weak characterization with regards to love, her bogus notion of the human body, and her constant fear of solitude, Kundera delivers a wonderful ending. Tomas abandons his work obsession and womanizing, and discovers true happiness with his wife. On the other hand, Tereza’s love and loyalty to her husband finally merited the simple, happy life she so much longed for.
o O o
Paula Abdul on the cover of Atlas TV Guide
8th Anniversary Issue (December 2007).