The Unbearable Lightness of Being

The Unbearable Lightness of Being

by

Milan Kundera

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on The Unbearable Lightness of Being can help.
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 Saint Bernard, and he is actually a female, even though Tereza gives him a masculine name and addresses him using masculine pronouns. In this way, Karenin represents the blending of dichotomies and collapse of polar opposites. By being both masculine and feminine, German shepherd and Saint Bernard, Karenin renders these opposing characteristics meaningless, which underscores the arbitrary nature of language. Tereza and Tomas have Karenin for years, and they establish a comfortable and repetitive routine, until Karenin gets cancer and dies at the end of the novel. Tereza is heartbroken after Karenin’s death—he was perhaps her sole source of happiness while he was alive. Kundera asserts that happiness is a desire for repetition, and Karenin brings this repetition to Tereza’s life. Unlike human time, dog time, according to Kundera, is not linear but circular—“like the hands of a clock.” Because of this, in addition to the fact that dogs were not expelled from Paradise, only a dog can give a human the gift the “idyll,” or true happiness, which is exactly what he gives to Tereza.

Karenin Quotes in The Unbearable Lightness of Being

The The Unbearable Lightness of Being quotes below are all either spoken by Karenin or refer to Karenin. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Time, Happiness, and Eternal Return Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Harper Perennial edition of The Unbearable Lightness of Being published in 2009.
Part 7, Chapter 4 Quotes

But most of all: No one can give anyone else the gift of the idyll; only an animal can do so, because only animals were not expelled from Paradise. The love between dog and man is idyllic. It knows no conflicts, no hair-raising scenes; it knows no development. Karenin surrounded Tereza and Tomas with a life based on repetition, and he expected the same from them.

Related Characters: Tomas, Tereza, Karenin
Page Number: 298
Explanation and Analysis:

If Karenin had been a person instead of a dog, he would surely have long since said to Tereza, “Look, I’m sick and tired of carrying that roll in my mouth every day. Can’t you come up with something different?’’ And therein lies the whole of man’s plight. Human time does not turn in a circle; it runs ahead in a straight line. That is why man cannot be happy: happiness is the longing for repetition

Related Characters: Tomas, Tereza, Karenin
Page Number: 298
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire The Unbearable Lightness of Being LitChart as a printable PDF.
The Unbearable Lightness of Being PDF

Karenin Character Timeline in The Unbearable Lightness of Being

The timeline below shows where the character Karenin appears in The Unbearable Lightness of Being. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part 1, Chapter 11
Words and Language Theme Icon
...German shepherd, and Tomas suggests they name the puppy Tolstoy, after Tereza’s favorite book, Anna Karenina. The puppy is a girl, Tereza says, and she suggests they name her Anna Karenina,... (full context)
Time, Happiness, and Eternal Return Theme Icon
Sex, Love, and Duality of Body and Soul Theme Icon
Power, Politics, and Inequality Theme Icon
Even with Karenin’s help, Tomas isn’t able to make Tereza happy, and Tomas becomes acutely aware of this... (full context)
Part 1, Chapter 13
Sex, Love, and Duality of Body and Soul Theme Icon
Power, Politics, and Inequality Theme Icon
Tomas and Tereza move to Switzerland with Karenin, and it isn’t long before Tomas makes plans to see Sabina. He can’t get away... (full context)
Power, Politics, and Inequality Theme Icon
...for about six months, and then Tomas comes home to find that Tereza has taken Karenin and returned to Prague. She isn’t strong enough to live abroad, Tereza says in a... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 26
Power, Politics, and Inequality Theme Icon
In Zurich, Tomas was always at work, and Tereza was left alone with Karenin. She kept thinking about Dubcek and his speech on the radio. They had all thought... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 27
Time, Happiness, and Eternal Return Theme Icon
Karenin was not happy about moving to Zurich. “Dog time,” the narrator says, does not occur... (full context)
Sex, Love, and Duality of Body and Soul Theme Icon
...She began to believe that their relationship had been a mistake from the start. Anna Karenina had given him the wrong idea about Tereza, and they were, in fact, incompatible. Tomas... (full context)
Part 2, Chapter 28
Sex, Love, and Duality of Body and Soul Theme Icon
Power, Politics, and Inequality Theme Icon
As Tereza sat on the train to Prague with her massive suitcase and Karenin, she began again to feel vertigo and the intense desire to fall. Vertigo, the narrator... (full context)
Part 4, Chapter 1
Time, Happiness, and Eternal Return Theme Icon
At six o’clock, the alarm goes off, and Karenin jumps onto the bed, licking Tereza and Tomas. Karenin has been up waiting for hours... (full context)
Part 4, Chapter 20
Lightness, Weight, and Dichotomies  Theme Icon
Sex, Love, and Duality of Body and Soul Theme Icon
Later, walking home with Karenin, Tereza notices the head of a crow on the ground near a housing development. As... (full context)
Part 7, Chapter 2
Power, Politics, and Inequality Theme Icon
Weeks later, it becomes clear that Karenin’s cancer is spreading, but he still goes to work every day with Tereza. Human goodness,... (full context)
Part 7, Chapter 3
Power, Politics, and Inequality Theme Icon
The next morning, Karenin refuses to get up for his morning walk. Tereza marks a place out between two... (full context)
Part 7, Chapter 4
Time, Happiness, and Eternal Return Theme Icon
...can never be truly happy. The desire for repetition is happiness, and this is what Karenin gives to Tereza. (full context)
Part 7, Chapter 5
Power, Politics, and Inequality Theme Icon
Tomas and Tereza decide that it is time to euthanize Karenin. He is suffering, and neither one of them can bear to watch it any longer.... (full context)