One of the greatest contemporary literary figures, Czech novelist, Milan Kundera has died in Paris after fighting with prolonged illness, as confirmed by Anna Mrazova, spokesperson for the Milan Kundera Library. The novelist, poet, and essayist was 94.
Source: The Guardian
Kundera, the Rebel
Kundera was drummed out from the Czechoslovakian Communist party for “anti-communist activities,” after which, he famously left Czechoslovakia for France in 1975. He had spent 40 years in Paris. In 1979 his Czech citizenship was revoked.
In 1984, he wrote what is widely considered to be his magnum opus, The Unbearable Lightness of Being. Kundera abandoned his mother tongue in favor of French to write La Lenteur (Slowness) in 1995. He wrote his final novel The Festival of Insignificance in 2014.
The author explored themes of being and betrayal for five decades.
Born on April 1, 1929, in Brno, he took up music with his father, a renowned pianist, before turning to writing. He became a lecturer in world literature at Prague’s film academy in 1952. His literary fame rose despite his works not being in line with the socialist realism demanded of every author in the ‘50s.
He wrote a tribute to the communist hero Julius Fučík, Poslední máj (The Last May) which was published in 1955. After already being expelled from the Communist party once in 1950, Kundera’s relationship with the Leftist regime almost completely collapsed for being one of the leading voices of the Prague Spring, demanding freedom of speech and equal rights.
The once passionate youth member of the Communist party found himself blacklisted after his first novel, The Joke (1967) was taken down from bookshops as Russian tanks arrived in Wenceslas Square. It was set around an exploration of fate and rationality regarding a joke about Trotsky.
Kundera eventually lost his teaching job and had to earn his living as a Jazz trumpeter in small-town cabarets.
After becoming a French citizen in 1981, Kundera reinforced his status as a literary superstar when his The Unbearable Lightness of Being was published by his friend Philip Roth. It told the story of four Czech artists and intellectuals, as well as a dog, who were caught up in a brief period of Prague Spring that concluded with the arrival of Soviet tanks in Prague.
Source: The Guardian
The book was later adapted for the screen in 1987, starring Daniel Day-Lewis and Juliette Binoche, who play a young couple torn between responsibility and infidelity, as they struggle with freedom and politics.
Salman Rushdie praised him for leaving “indelible marks” on his readers, including himself. He reminisces to a news source that Milan’s line from The Book of Laughter, “The struggle of man against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting” has profoundly helped his perception of global events.
Czech Prime Minister Petr Fialia said the late author won over multiple generations of readers across the world and achieved global fame. He stresses Kundera was not only a great fiction writer, but also a notable essayist.
In 2019, Milan and his wife had their Czech citizenship restored by the then Prime Minister Andrej Babis, exactly four decades after it was revoked.