As Tereza walks to the sauna, she thinks about her mother. What is gained by exposing someone else’s misery, Tereza wonders? She has been thinking about her mother a lot recently, which is why she told Tomas about her reading the diary at the dinner table. When private conversations are broadcast on the radio, Tereza thinks to herself, it must mean that the world is becoming a “concentration camp.”
Kundera repeatedly references concentration camps, which again reflects the many political conflicts of Czechoslovakian history. Between Nazi concentration camps during WWII, and Russia’s use of gulags—a type of political labor camp—the Czech people have a long history of being persecuted on their own soil by foreign powers.
Tereza always uses the term “concentration camp” to explain where her family was kept during World War II, but she also uses the term to describe the total lack of privacy. Living in her mother’s house was like living in a concentration camp, and like a real camp, her mother’s house was nearly impossible to escape.
Kundera’s interrogation of the term “concentration camp” again underscores the ambiguity of language. A concentration camp, to Tereza at least, is not merely a physical place where people are held, and likely tortured and killed. Tereza also uses this term more broadly to describe places like her mother’s house and later the entire country of Czechoslovakia.