Stalin’s son, Yakov, had a difficult life. Evidence suggests that Stalin killed Yakov’s mother when Yakov was just an infant, and Yakov was largely rejected by his father. Yet since he was the son of a powerful Bolshevik leader, people mostly feared Yakov. “Rejection and privilege, happiness and woe,” the narrator says, “no one felt more concretely than Yakov how interchangeable opposites are, how short the step from one pole of human existence to the other.” Since there is no difference between rejection and privilege, or “the sublime and the paltry,” human life “loses its dimensions and becomes unbearably light.”
This passage again rejects either/or thinking and polar opposites. By collapsing the differences between opposites, these dichotomies become meaningless: Yakov is both happy and miserable, accepted and rejected. As these opposites are meaningless, Kundera associates them with lightness, and he sees Yakov in this way, too. Yakov is also meaningless and light, and he throws himself through the air to his death, never to return again.