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.

Yakov Dzhugashvili Character Analysis

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, to highlight his argument that opposites are interchangeable. Yakov was both privileged and rejected by his father, and he was a mix of both happy and sad. Through Yakov, Kundera claims that there is little difference between polar opposites, which renders such opposites meaningless. Historically speaking, Yakov Dzhugashvili was sent to the Sachsenhausen concentration camp in 1941, although it is unclear whether he was captured by the Germans or surrendered. He died at the concentration camp in 1943, but it is unknown if he committed suicide or was killed.

Yakov Dzhugashvili Quotes in The Unbearable Lightness of Being

The The Unbearable Lightness of Being quotes below are all either spoken by Yakov Dzhugashvili or refer to Yakov Dzhugashvili. 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 6, Chapter 2 Quotes

Rejection and privilege, happiness and woe—no one felt more concretely than Yakov how interchangeable opposites are, how short the step from one pole of human existence to the other.

Then, at the very outset of the war, he fell prisoner to the Germans, and other prisoners, belonging to an incomprehensible, standoffish nation that had always been intrinsically repulsive to him, accused him of being dirty. Was he, who bore on his shoulders a drama of the highest order (as fallen angel and Son of God), to undergo judgment not for something sublime (in the realm of God and the angels) but for shit? Were the very highest of drama and the very lowest so vertiginously close?

Vertiginously close? Can proximity cause vertigo?

It can. When the north pole comes so close as to touch the south pole, the earth disappears and man finds himself in a void that makes his head spin and beckons him to fall.

If rejection and privilege are one and the same, if there is no difference between the sublime and the paltry, if the Son of God can undergo judgment for shit, then human existence loses its dimensions and becomes unbearably light.

Related Characters: Yakov Dzhugashvili
Page Number: 244
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire The Unbearable Lightness of Being LitChart as a printable PDF.
The Unbearable Lightness of Being PDF

Yakov Dzhugashvili Character Timeline in The Unbearable Lightness of Being

The timeline below shows where the character Yakov Dzhugashvili appears in The Unbearable Lightness of Being. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part 6, Chapter 1
Lightness, Weight, and Dichotomies  Theme Icon
Power, Politics, and Inequality Theme Icon
In 1980, the Sunday Times reported how Joseph Stalin’s son, Yakov, died during World War II. He had been captured by the Germans and held in... (full context)
Part 6, Chapter 2
Time, Happiness, and Eternal Return Theme Icon
Lightness, Weight, and Dichotomies  Theme Icon
Stalin’s son, Yakov, had a difficult life. Evidence suggests that Stalin killed Yakov’s mother when Yakov was just... (full context)