The Unbearable Lightness of Being

The Unbearable Lightness of Being


Milan Kundera

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The Unbearable Lightness of Being Characters


Tereza’s husband, Sabina’s lover, and Simon’s father. Tomas is a successful neurosurgeon and serial womanizer when he first meets Tereza. Most notably, he has a long-term affair with Sabina. Tereza later comes… read analysis of Tomas


Tomas’s wife. Tereza first meets Tomas working in a country restaurant in Czechoslovakia. When Tomas walks through the door of the restaurant, Beethoven, Tereza’s favorite composer, is playing on the radio. Tomas places an… read analysis of Tereza


Tomas and Franz’s lover. Sabina is a painter, and like Tomas, she is represented as “light.” Sabina avoids love and committed relationships, and her entire life is a series of “betrayals.” Sabrina sees “betrayal”… read analysis of Sabina


Sabina’s lover, Marie-Claude’s husband, and Marie-Anne’s father. Franz is a professor who makes his living with words. He gives lectures at the university and writes academic articles, yet he comes to the… read analysis of Franz

The Narrator

The unnamed narrator is often considered by critics to be a stand-in for Kundera himself, which is why this guide uses masculine pronouns to refer to this character (though it's impossible to say for sure… read analysis of The Narrator
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Tomas’s son. Tomas abandons Simon when he is just an infant and leaves him with his mother, a staunch Communist. Once Simon is old enough, he moves out of his mother’s house, leaving both… read analysis of Simon


Franz’s wife and Marie-Anne’s mother. Marie-Claude owns an art gallery, and she and Franz have a loveless marriage. Franz believes that Marie-Claude is weak, and that she can’t live without him, but this… read analysis of Marie-Claude


Tereza and Tomas’s dog. Tomas buys Karenin for Tereza after they are married, and Tereza names him after a character in her favorite book, Anna Karenina. Karenin is half German shepherd, half… read analysis of Karenin

Alexander Dubcek

The president of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia during the Prague Spring. After the Russian occupation of Czechoslovakia, Dubcek is taken with the other Czech politicians to Moscow, where he is forced to sign… read analysis of Alexander Dubcek

Tereza’s Mother

After Tereza’s mother gives birth to Tereza, she decides that she looks “old and ugly.” She ultimately resents Tereza for taking her youth, so she abandons Tereza and Tereza’s father. After Tereza’s father is… read analysis of Tereza’s Mother

The Tall Stranger

An engineer and a patron of the Prague bar where Tereza works. When the obnoxious man insults Tereza, the tall stranger stands up for her. He later asks her to go home with him, and… read analysis of The Tall Stranger

The Editor

A member of the Czech intelligentsia and the editor of a small Prague newspaper. Tomas incriminates the editor when he unwittingly implies to the dignitary that the editor was the one who had altered Tomas’s… read analysis of The Editor

The Obnoxious Man

A patron of the Prague bar where Tereza works. The obnoxious man accuses Tereza of serving alcohol to a young man, and then the obnoxious man subtly accuses her of being a prostitute. Tereza… read analysis of The Obnoxious Man

The Dignitary

A member of the Communist regime who tries to get Tomas to retract the article Tomas wrote about Oedipus. The dignitary implies that Tomas will be able to operate as a surgeon again if he… read analysis of The Dignitary

Yakov Dzhugashvili

The son of Joseph Stalin, the leader of the Soviet Union from the 1920s to the 1950s. Kundera uses the historical figure of Yakov, who, in the novel, commits suicide in a German concentration camp… read analysis of Yakov Dzhugashvili

The American Actress

A participant in the Grand March. Like the German pop star, the American actress treats the Grand March like a photo opportunity, only she claims that participating in the Grand March is her “moral… read analysis of The American Actress

The German Pop Star

A participant in the Grand March. The German pop star has written over 1,000 songs of peace, and he waves a white flag as he marches toward the Cambodian border. The German pop star is… read analysis of The German Pop Star

The Tall Woman

One of Tomas’s customers as a window washer. She is taller than Tomas and looks a bit like a stork. Tomas has never had sex with a woman who is taller than him, so… read analysis of The Tall Woman

Franz’s Girlfriend

One of Franz’s young students and the woman he falls in love with after both Sabina and Marie-Claude leave him. Franz’s girlfriend sits at the back of Franz’s funeral as Marie-Claude plays the role… read analysis of Franz’s Girlfriend


Franz and Marie-Claude’s daughter. Marie-Anne takes after her mother and is nothing like her father, and she does not have a particularly close connection to Franz. Despite the “heaviness” implied by the father-daughter relationship… read analysis of Marie-Anne

The Young Man

A 16 year old boy who comes into the Prague bar where Tereza works and tries to order a drink. Tereza refuses to serve him, and he promptly goes across the street to another bar… read analysis of The Young Man
Minor Characters
The Collective Farm Chairman
One of Tomas’s former patients and the chairman of the collective farm where Tomas and Tereza move at the end of the novel. Tomas and Tereza spend their last night alive together with the collective farm chairman, dancing at a bar in a nearby town.