"Einmal ist keinmal"

Literally, “once is not-once,” in German. The narrator says Tomas is repeating a German adage that means: what happens just once might as well not have happened at all.

Tomas is troubled by the unbearable lightness of being; in this particular case, his inability to tell whether his emotional response to the simple country girl Tereza is an instance of love or hysteria, that he cannot tell whether it would be better to stay with her or to choose to remain alone.

The narrator comments that everything comes at us without warning, that the rehearsal for life is life itself; and that life is like a sketch, except that “the sketch that is our life is a sketch for nothing, an outline with no picture.”

But would Tomas (or we) feel better if we believed in eternal return -- and that what we experience would happen again someday?