Milan Kundera was born in Brno, Czechoslovakia, and has settled in France for over forty years.
He is the author of the internationally acclaimed and bestselling novels The Joke (1967), Life is Elsewhere (1973), The Farewell Waltz (1976), The Book of Laughter and Forgetting (1978), The Unbearable Lightness of Being (1984), Immortality (1991), and the short-story collection Laughable Loves (1969), which were all originally written in Czech.
His play, Jacques and His Master (1984), Slowness (1995), Identity (1998) and Ignorance (2002) were all originally written in French. Milan Kundera has also written extensively about the novel in four collections of essays – The Art of the Novel (1968), Testaments Betrayed (1993), The Curtain (2007) and Encounter (2009).
Here, we present some of the best quotes about life from Milan Kundera.
1. “The goals we pursue are always veiled. A girl who longs for marriage longs for something she knows nothing about. The boy who hankers after fame has no idea what fame is. The thing that gives our every move its meaning is always totally unknown to us.”-Milan Kundera
2. “Flirting is a promise of sexual intercourse without a guarantee.”-Milan Kundera
3. “Perhaps all the questions we ask of love, to measure, test, probe, and save it, have the additional effect of cutting it short. Perhaps the reason we are unable to love is that we yearn to be loved, that is, we demand something (love) from our partner instead of delivering ourselves up to him demand-free and asking for nothing but his company.”-Milan Kundera
4. “Physical love is unthinkable without violence.”-Milan Kundera
5. “There is a certain part of all of us that lives outside of time. Perhaps we become aware of our age only at exceptional moments and most of the time we are ageless.”-Milan Kundera
6. “Chance and chance alone has a message for us. Everything that occurs out of necessity, everything expected, repeated day in and day out, is mute. Only chance can speak to us.”-Milan Kundera
7. “Yes, it’s a well-known fact about you: you’re like death, you take everything.”-Milan Kundera
8. “When we want to give expression to a dramatic situation in our lives, we tend to use metaphors of heaviness. We say that something has become a great burden to us. We either bear the burden or fail and go down with it, we struggle with it, win or lose. And Sabina – what had come over her? Nothing. She had left a man because she felt like leaving him. Had he persecuted her? Had he tried to take revenge on her? No. Her drama was a drama not of heaviness but of lightness. What fell to her lot was not the burden, but the unbearable lightness of being.”-Milan Kundera
9. “The struggle of man against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting”-Milan Kundera
10. “Does he love me? Does he love anyone more than me? Does he love me more than I love him? Perhaps all the questions we ask of love, to measure, test, probe, and save it, have the additional effect of cutting it short. Perhaps the reason we are unable to love is that we yearn to be loved, that is, we demand something (love) from our partner instead of delivering ourselves up to him demand-free and asking for nothing but his company.”-Milan Kundera
11. “I was not a hypocrite, with one real face and several false ones. I had several faces because I was young and didn’t know who I was or wanted to be.”-Milan Kundera
12. “Why don’t you ever use your strength on me?” she said.Because love means renouncing strength,” said Franz softly.”-Milan Kundera
13. “Dogs do not have many advantages over people, but one of them is extremely important: euthanasia is not forbidden by law in their case; animals have the right to a merciful death.”-Milan Kundera
14. “To laugh is to live profoundly.”-Milan Kundera
15. “Anyone whose goal is ‘something higher’ must expect someday to suffer vertigo. What is vertigo? Fear of falling? No, Vertigo is something other than fear of falling. It is the voice of the emptiness below us which tempts and lures us, it is the desire to fall, against which, terrified, we defend ourselves.”-Milan Kundera
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16. “Living is being happy: seeing, hearing, touching, drinking, eating, urinating, defecating, diving into the water and gazing at the sky, laughing and crying.”-Milan Kundera
17. “Indeed, the only truly serious questions are ones that even a child can formulate. Only the most naive of questions are truly serious. They are the questions with no answers. A question with no answer is a barrier that cannot be breached.
In other words, it is questions with no answers that set the limit of human possibilities, describe the boundaries of human existence.”-Milan Kundera
18. “A man is responsible for his ignorance.”-Milan Kundera
19. “Perhaps the reason we are unable to love is that we yearn to be loved, that is, we demand something (love) from our partner instead of delivering ourselves up to him demand-free and asking for nothing but his company.”-Milan Kundera
20. “Yes, it’s crazy. Love is either crazy or it’s nothing at all.”-Milan Kundera
21. “Einmal ist keinmal, says Tomas to himself. What happens but once, says the German adage, might as well not have happened at all. If we have only one life to live, we might as well not have lived at all.”-Milan Kundera,
22. “The stupidity of people comes from having an answer for everything. The wisdom of the novel comes from having a question for everything….The novelist teaches the reader to comprehend the world as a question. There is wisdom and tolerance in that attitude.
In a world built on sacrosanct certainties the novel is dead. The totalitarian world, whether founded on Marx, Islam, or anything else, is a world of answers rather than questions. There, the novel has no place.”-Milan Kundera
23. “Fortunately women have the miraculous ability to change the meaning of their actions after the event.”-Milan Kundera
24. “Human life occurs only once, and the reason we cannot determine which of our decisions are good and which bad is that in a given situation we can make only one decision; we are not granted a second, third, or fourth life in which to compare various decisions.”-Milan Kundera
25. “How could she feel nostalgia when he was right in front of her? How can you suffer from the absence of a person who is present?
26. You can suffer nostalgia in the presence of the beloved if you glimpse a future where the beloved is no more”-Milan Kundera
27. “I think, therefore I am is the statement of an intellectual who underrates toothaches. I feel, therefore I am is a truth much more universally valid, and it applies to everything that’s alive. My self does not differ substantially from yours in terms of its thought. Many people, few ideas: we all think more or less the same, and we exchange, borrow, steal thoughts from one another. However, when someone steps on my foot, only I feel the pain. The basis of the self is not thought but suffering, which is the most fundamental of all feelings. While it suffers, not even a cat can doubt its unique and uninterchangeable self. In intense suffering the world disappears and each of us is alone with his self. Suffering is the university of egocentrism.”-Milan Kundera
28. “On the surface, an intelligible lie; underneath, the unintelligible truth.”-Milan Kundera
29. “We pass through the present with our eyes blindfolded. We are permitted merely to sense and guess at what we are actually experiencing. Only later when the cloth is untied can we glance at the past and find out what we have experienced and what meaning it has.”-Milan Kundera
30. “Love is a battle,” said Marie-Claude, still smiling. “And I plan to go on fighting. To the end.”
Love is a battle?” said Franz. “Well, I don’t feel at all like fighting.” And he left.”-Milan Kundera
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