“Among Mankind’s Deepest Needs”: Repetitive Grief and Intimate Isolation in Milan Kundera’s 'The Unbearable Lightness of Being' and Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s 'One Hundred Years of Solitude'

Emily A Bonner


Milan Kundera’s ‘The Unbearable Lightness of Being’ and Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s ‘One Hundred Years of Solitude’ are two novels which attempt deep and intimate investigations of the complex griefs - be it from death, from separation, from miscommunication, or otherwise - arising out of close human relationships. Whether they exist in 1960s Prague or the strange, timeless town of rural Macondo, the characters created by both of these authors tap into the universal conflict of existing within the confines of that grief - a grief which these characters experience within the two realms of the intimate, both interpersonally, in the closeness of their relationships, and intrapersonally, in the greater intimacy of their own isolation. In my thesis, I seek to examine how Kundera and Garcia Marquez have utilized cyclical structures, philosophizing narrators, and a touch - or perhaps more - of magical realism to explore how repetitive grief, born out of the isolation caused by relational shame, betrayal, and sacrifice, renders itself within the context of an intimate relationship. These instances of shame, betrayal, and sacrifice, in shaping both the nature of these unions and the understandings of the individuals involved, ultimately serve as a means of helping these characters recognize the value of their grief, and eventually manage to use it to achieve emotional productivity, relational growth, familial understanding, and even - in some cases - personal contentment.


Cyclical Grief; Isolation; Relational; Intimacy

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