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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31.“Kitsch is the inability to admit that shit exists”-Milan Kundera
32. “Dogs are our link to paradise. They don’t know evil or jealousy or discontent. To sit with a dog on a hillside on a glorious afternoon is to be back in Eden, where doing nothing was not boring–it was peace.” ― Milan Kundera
33. “Making love with a woman and sleeping with a woman are two separate passions, not merely different but opposite. Love does not make itself felt in the desire for copulation (a desire that extends to an infinite number of women) but in the desire for shared sleep (a desire limited to one woman).” ― Milan Kundera
34. “For there is nothing heavier than compassion. Not even one’s own pain weighs so heavy as the pain one feels with someone, for someone, a pain intensified by the imagination and prolonged by a hundred echoes.”-Milan Kundera
35. “He suddenly recalled from Plato’s Symposium: People were hermaphrodites until God split then in two, and now all the halves wander the world over seeking one another. Love is the longing for the half of ourselves we have lost.” ― Milan Kundera
36. “People are always shouting they want to create a better future. It’s not true. The future is an apathetic void of no interest to anyone. The past is full of life, eager to irritate us, provoke and insult us, tempt us to destroy or repaint it. The only reason people want to be masters of the future is to change the past.” ― Milan Kundera
37. “The brain appears to possess a special area which we might call poetic memory and which records everything that charms or touches us, that makes our lives beautiful … Love begins with a metaphor. Which is to say, love begins at the point when a woman enters her first word into our poetic memory.” ― Milan Kundera
38. “Battles over job and career, over every picture published. She had never been ambitious out of vanity. All she ever wanted was to escape from her mother’s world. Yes, she saw it with absolute clarity: no matter how enthusiastic she was about taking pictures, she could just as easily have turned her enthusiasm to any other endeavour. Photography was nothing but a way of getting at ‘something higher’ and living beside Thomas.” ― Milan Kundera
39. “When he was twelve, she suddenly found herself alone, abandoned by Franz’s father. The boy suspected something serious had happened, but his mother muted the drama with mild, insipid words so as not to upset him. The day his father left, Franz and his mother went into town together, and as they left home Franz noticed that her shoes did not match. He was in a quandary: he wanted to point out her mistake, but was afraid he would hurt her. So during the two hours they spent walking through the city together he kept his eyes fixed on her feet. It was then he had his first inkling of what it means to suffer.” ― Milan Kundera
40. The heavier burden destroys us, we are torn down by it, it crushes us against the earth. But in the love poetry of all times the woman wants to carry the weight of the body of man. The heavier burden is therefore, at the same time, the image of the most intense fullness of life. The heavier the load, the closer our earth will be to life, the more real and true it will be. ” – Milan Kundera
41. “And there was something else that placed him above the rest: he had an open book on the table. In that restaurant nobody had ever opened a book at the table. The book was for Teresa the password of a secret brotherhood. To defend herself from the world of uncouthness that surrounded her, she had only one weapon: the books that she lent to him in the municipal library (…). They offered her the possibility of an imaginary escape from a life that did not satisfy her, but they also had an importance for her as objects: she liked to walk down the street carrying them under her arm. They had for her the same meaning as an elegant cane for a dandy of the last century. They differentiated it from others. ” – Milan Kundera
42. ” He knocked slightly with the heart of his tongue, had written Yaromil in one of his poems. It seemed to her that her tongue, the puppet of her hand, her breast, her navel were separate, self-contained beings who spoke to each other; it seemed to him that the girl’s body consisted of thousands of beings, and that to love this body means listening to these beings and hearing her two breasts whisper in a tongue. ” – Milan Kundera
43. “Comically. By offering us the beautiful illusion of human grandeur, the tragic brings comfort. The comic is more cruel – it brutally tells us how insignificant it is. I suppose that all human things have a comical aspect, which in some cases is recognized, accepted, studied, in others – veiled. The true geniuses of the comic are not the ones that make us laugh the most, but those who reveal some unfamiliar zone of the comic. History has always been considered a very serious territory. But there is also unexplored comism in it. As there is comism (difficult to accept) in sexuality. ” – Milan Kundera