Milan Kundera
Overview
Milan Kundera (ˈmɪlan ˈkundɛra), born 1 April 1929, is a writer of Czech
Czech Republic
The Czech Republic is a landlocked country in Central Europe. The country is bordered by Poland to the northeast, Slovakia to the east, Austria to the south, and Germany to the west and northwest....

 origin who has lived in exile in France since 1975, where he became a naturalized citizen
Naturalization
Naturalization is the acquisition of citizenship and nationality by somebody who was not a citizen of that country at the time of birth....

 in 1981. He is best known as the author of The Unbearable Lightness of Being
The Unbearable Lightness of Being
The Unbearable Lightness of Being , written by Milan Kundera, is a philosophical novel about two men, two women, a dog and their lives in the Prague Spring of the Czechoslovak Communist period in 1968. Although written in 1982, the novel was not published until two years later, in France...

, The Book of Laughter and Forgetting
The Book of Laughter and Forgetting
The Book of Laughter and Forgetting is a novel by Milan Kundera, published in 1979. It is composed of seven separate narratives united by some common themes. The book considers the nature of forgetting as it occurs in history, politics and life in general...

, and The Joke. Kundera has written in both Czech
Czech language
Czech is a West Slavic language with about 12 million native speakers; it is the majority language in the Czech Republic and spoken by Czechs worldwide. The language was known as Bohemian in English until the late 19th century...

 and French
French language
French is a Romance language spoken as a first language in France, the Romandy region in Switzerland, Wallonia and Brussels in Belgium, Monaco, the regions of Quebec and Acadia in Canada, and by various communities elsewhere. Second-language speakers of French are distributed throughout many parts...

. He revises the French translations of all his books; these therefore are not considered translations but original works. His books were banned by the Communist
Communism
Communism is a social, political and economic ideology that aims at the establishment of a classless, moneyless, revolutionary and stateless socialist society structured upon common ownership of the means of production...

 regimes of Czechoslovakia until the downfall of the regime in the Velvet Revolution
Velvet Revolution
The Velvet Revolution or Gentle Revolution was a non-violent revolution in Czechoslovakia that took place from November 17 – December 29, 1989...

 of 1989.
Kundera was born in 1929 at Purkyňova ulice, 6 (6 Purkyňova Street) in Brno
Brno
Brno by population and area is the second largest city in the Czech Republic, the largest Moravian city, and the historical capital city of the Margraviate of Moravia. Brno is the administrative centre of the South Moravian Region where it forms a separate district Brno-City District...

, Czechoslovakia
Czechoslovakia
Czechoslovakia or Czecho-Slovakia was a sovereign state in Central Europe which existed from October 1918, when it declared its independence from the Austro-Hungarian Empire, until 1992...

, to a middle-class family.
Quotations

A novel that does not uncover a hitherto unknown segment of existence is immoral. Knowledge is the novel's only morality.

New York Review of Books (1984-07-19)

The light that radiates from the great novels time can never dim, for human existence is perpetually being forgotten by man and thus the novelists' discoveries, however old they may be, will never cease to astonish.

As quoted in The Guardian (1988-06-03)

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.

As quoted in The Canine Hiker's Bible (2000) by Doug Gelbert, p. 8

Optimism is the opium of the people.

Nothing is more repugnant to me than brotherly feelings grounded in the common baseness people see in one another.

No great movement designed to change the world can bear to be laughed at or belittled. Mockery is a rust that corrodes all it touches. :Viking, ISBN 0-14-009693-0, trans. Michael Henry Heim

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. They are fighting for access to the laboratories where photographs are retouched and biographies and histories rewritten.

Part I: Lost Letters (p. 22)

Encyclopedia
Milan Kundera (ˈmɪlan ˈkundɛra), born 1 April 1929, is a writer of Czech
Czech Republic
The Czech Republic is a landlocked country in Central Europe. The country is bordered by Poland to the northeast, Slovakia to the east, Austria to the south, and Germany to the west and northwest....

 origin who has lived in exile in France since 1975, where he became a naturalized citizen
Naturalization
Naturalization is the acquisition of citizenship and nationality by somebody who was not a citizen of that country at the time of birth....

 in 1981. He is best known as the author of The Unbearable Lightness of Being
The Unbearable Lightness of Being
The Unbearable Lightness of Being , written by Milan Kundera, is a philosophical novel about two men, two women, a dog and their lives in the Prague Spring of the Czechoslovak Communist period in 1968. Although written in 1982, the novel was not published until two years later, in France...

, The Book of Laughter and Forgetting
The Book of Laughter and Forgetting
The Book of Laughter and Forgetting is a novel by Milan Kundera, published in 1979. It is composed of seven separate narratives united by some common themes. The book considers the nature of forgetting as it occurs in history, politics and life in general...

, and The Joke. Kundera has written in both Czech
Czech language
Czech is a West Slavic language with about 12 million native speakers; it is the majority language in the Czech Republic and spoken by Czechs worldwide. The language was known as Bohemian in English until the late 19th century...

 and French
French language
French is a Romance language spoken as a first language in France, the Romandy region in Switzerland, Wallonia and Brussels in Belgium, Monaco, the regions of Quebec and Acadia in Canada, and by various communities elsewhere. Second-language speakers of French are distributed throughout many parts...

. He revises the French translations of all his books; these therefore are not considered translations but original works. His books were banned by the Communist
Communism
Communism is a social, political and economic ideology that aims at the establishment of a classless, moneyless, revolutionary and stateless socialist society structured upon common ownership of the means of production...

 regimes of Czechoslovakia until the downfall of the regime in the Velvet Revolution
Velvet Revolution
The Velvet Revolution or Gentle Revolution was a non-violent revolution in Czechoslovakia that took place from November 17 – December 29, 1989...

 of 1989.

Life

Kundera was born in 1929 at Purkyňova ulice, 6 (6 Purkyňova Street) in Brno
Brno
Brno by population and area is the second largest city in the Czech Republic, the largest Moravian city, and the historical capital city of the Margraviate of Moravia. Brno is the administrative centre of the South Moravian Region where it forms a separate district Brno-City District...

, Czechoslovakia
Czechoslovakia
Czechoslovakia or Czecho-Slovakia was a sovereign state in Central Europe which existed from October 1918, when it declared its independence from the Austro-Hungarian Empire, until 1992...

, to a middle-class family. His father, Ludvík Kundera (1891–1971), once a pupil of the composer Leoš Janáček
Leoš Janácek
Leoš Janáček was a Czech composer, musical theorist, folklorist, publicist and teacher. He was inspired by Moravian and all Slavic folk music to create an original, modern musical style. Until 1895 he devoted himself mainly to folkloristic research and his early musical output was influenced by...

, was an important Czech musicologist and pianist who served as the head of the Janáček Music Academy
Janácek Academy of Music and Performing Arts
Janáček Academy of Music and Performing Arts is a university-level school in Brno in the Czech Republic.The Janáček Academy of Music and Performing Arts is one of two academies of music and the dramatic arts in the Czech Republic...

 in Brno from 1948 to 1961. Milan learned to play the piano from his father; he later studied musicology and musical composition. Musicological influences and references can be found throughout his work; he has even gone so far as to include musical notation
Musical notation
Music notation or musical notation is any system that represents aurally perceived music, through the use of written symbols.-History:...

 in the text to make a point. Kundera is a cousin of Czech writer and translator Ludvík Kundera
Ludvík Kundera
Ludvík Kundera was a Czech writer, translator, poet, playwright, editor and literary historian. He was a notable exponent of the Czech avant-garde literature and a prolific translator of German authors. In 2007, he received the Medal of Merit for service to the Republic...

. He belonged to the generation of young Czechs who had had little or no experience of the pre-war democratic Czechoslovak Republic
Czechoslovak Republic
Czechoslovak Republic was the official name of Czechoslovakia between 1918 and 1938 and between 1945 and 1960. See*First Czechoslovak Republic*Second Czechoslovak Republic...

. Their ideology was greatly influenced by the experiences of World War II and the German occupation. Still in his teens, he joined the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia
Communist Party of Czechoslovakia
The Communist Party of Czechoslovakia, in Czech and in Slovak: Komunistická strana Československa was a Communist and Marxist-Leninist political party in Czechoslovakia that existed between 1921 and 1992....

 which seized power in 1948. He completed his secondary school studies in Brno
Brno
Brno by population and area is the second largest city in the Czech Republic, the largest Moravian city, and the historical capital city of the Margraviate of Moravia. Brno is the administrative centre of the South Moravian Region where it forms a separate district Brno-City District...

 at Gymnázium třída Kapitána Jaroše in 1948. He studied literature and aesthetics at the Faculty of Arts at Charles University in Prague. After two terms, he transferred to the Film Faculty of the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague
Academy of Performing Arts in Prague
The Academy of Performing Arts in Prague is a university level school of music, dance, drama, film, TV and multi-media studies.- Faculties :*Film and TV School - FAMU*Music Faculty - HAMU*Theatre Faculty - DAMU-Notable alumni:...

, where he first attended lectures in film direction and script writing.

In 1950, his studies were briefly interrupted by political interferences. He and writer Jan Trefulka
Jan Trefulka
Jan Trefulka is a Czech writer, translator, literary critic and publicist. He attended school with the more internationally famous writer Milan Kundera and they have been lifelong friends....

 were expelled from the party for "anti-party activities." Trefulka described the incident in his novella Pršelo jim štěstí (Happiness Rained On Them, 1962). Kundera also used the incident as an inspiration for the main theme of his novel Žert (The Joke, 1967
1967 in literature
The year 1967 in literature involved some significant events and new books.-Events:*Influential science fiction anthology Dangerous Visions published.*Cecil Day-Lewis is selected as the new Poet Laureate of the UK.-New books:...

). After Kundera graduated in 1952, the Film Faculty appointed him a lecturer in world literature. In 1956 Milan Kundera was readmitted into the Party. He was expelled for the second time in 1970. Kundera, along with other reform communist writers such as Pavel Kohout
Pavel Kohout
Pavel Kohout is a Czech and Austrian novelist, playwright, and poet. He was a member of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia, a Prague Spring exponent and dissident in 1970s until he was expelled to Austria...

, were partly involved in the 1968 Prague Spring
Prague Spring
The Prague Spring was a period of political liberalization in Czechoslovakia during the era of its domination by the Soviet Union after World War II...

. This brief period of reformist activities was crushed by the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in August 1968
Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia
On the night of 20–21 August 1968, the Soviet Union and her main satellite states in the Warsaw Pact – Bulgaria, the German Democratic Republic , Hungary and Poland – invaded the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic in order to halt Alexander Dubček's Prague Spring political liberalization...

. Kundera remained committed to reforming Czech communism, and argued vehemently in print with fellow Czech writer Václav Havel
Václav Havel
Václav Havel is a Czech playwright, essayist, poet, dissident and politician. He was the tenth and last President of Czechoslovakia and the first President of the Czech Republic . He has written over twenty plays and numerous non-fiction works, translated internationally...

, saying, essentially, that everyone should remain calm and that "nobody is being locked up for his opinions yet," and "the significance of the Prague Autumn may ultimately be greater than that of the Prague Spring." Finally, however, Kundera relinquished his reformist dreams and moved to France in 1975. He taught for a few years in the University of Rennes
University of Rennes 2 - Upper Brittany
The University of Rennes 2 is a French university in Upper Brittany, one of four in the Academy of Rennes.The main campus is situated in the northwest section of Rennes in the Villejean neighborhood not far from the other campus, located at La Harpe.-Creation of the University of Brittany:Asked...

. He was stripped of Czechoslovak citizenship in 1979; he has been a French citizen since 1981.

He maintains contacts with Czech and Slovak friends in his homeland, but rarely returns and always does so incognito.

Career

Although his early poetic works are staunchly pro-communist, his novels escape ideological classification. Kundera has repeatedly insisted on being considered a novelist, rather than a political or dissident writer. Political commentary has all but disappeared from his novels (starting specifically after The Unbearable Lightness of Being
The Unbearable Lightness of Being
The Unbearable Lightness of Being , written by Milan Kundera, is a philosophical novel about two men, two women, a dog and their lives in the Prague Spring of the Czechoslovak Communist period in 1968. Although written in 1982, the novel was not published until two years later, in France...

) except in relation to broader philosophical themes. Kundera's style of fiction, interlaced with philosophical digression, greatly inspired by the novels of Robert Musil
Robert Musil
Robert Musil was an Austrian writer. His unfinished long novel The Man Without Qualities is generally considered to be one of the most important modernist novels...

 and the philosophy of Nietzsche,http://www.webster.edu/~corbetre/personal/reading/kundera-unbearable.html is also used by authors Alain de Botton
Alain de Botton
Alain de Botton is a Swiss writer, television presenter, and entrepreneur, resident in the UK.His books and television programs discuss various contemporary subjects and themes in a philosophical style, emphasizing philosophy's relevance to everyday life. In August 2008, he was a founding member...

 and Adam Thirlwell
Adam Thirlwell
Adam Thirlwell is a British novelist. He was educated at the independent Haberdashers' Aske's Boys' School, Elstree. He is assistant editor of Areté, an arts tri-quarterly. He also writes a column for Esquire magazine....

. Kundera takes his inspiration, as he notes often enough, not only from the Renaissance
Renaissance
The Renaissance was a cultural movement that spanned roughly the 14th to the 17th century, beginning in Italy in the Late Middle Ages and later spreading to the rest of Europe. The term is also used more loosely to refer to the historical era, but since the changes of the Renaissance were not...

 authors Giovanni Boccaccio
Giovanni Boccaccio
Giovanni Boccaccio was an Italian author and poet, a friend, student, and correspondent of Petrarch, an important Renaissance humanist and the author of a number of notable works including the Decameron, On Famous Women, and his poetry in the Italian vernacular...

 and Rabelais, but also from Laurence Sterne
Laurence Sterne
Laurence Sterne was an Irish novelist and an Anglican clergyman. He is best known for his novels The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman, and A Sentimental Journey Through France and Italy; but he also published many sermons, wrote memoirs, and was involved in local politics...

, Henry Fielding
Henry Fielding
Henry Fielding was an English novelist and dramatist known for his rich earthy humour and satirical prowess, and as the author of the novel Tom Jones....

, Denis Diderot
Denis Diderot
Denis Diderot was a French philosopher, art critic, and writer. He was a prominent person during the Enlightenment and is best known for serving as co-founder and chief editor of and contributor to the Encyclopédie....

, Robert Musil
Robert Musil
Robert Musil was an Austrian writer. His unfinished long novel The Man Without Qualities is generally considered to be one of the most important modernist novels...

, Witold Gombrowicz
Witold Gombrowicz
Witold Marian Gombrowicz was a Polish novelist and dramatist. His works are characterized by deep psychological analysis, a certain sense of paradox and an absurd, anti-nationalist flavor...

, Hermann Broch
Hermann Broch
Hermann Broch was a 20th century Austrian writer, considered one of the major Modernists.-Life:Broch was born in Vienna to a prosperous Jewish family and worked for some time in his family's factory, though he maintained his literary interests privately...

, Franz Kafka
Franz Kafka
Franz Kafka was a culturally influential German-language author of short stories and novels. Contemporary critics and academics, including Vladimir Nabokov, regard Kafka as one of the best writers of the 20th century...

, Martin Heidegger
Martin Heidegger
Martin Heidegger was a German philosopher known for his existential and phenomenological explorations of the "question of Being."...

, and perhaps most importantly, Miguel de Cervantes
Miguel de Cervantes
Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra was a Spanish novelist, poet, and playwright. His magnum opus, Don Quixote, considered the first modern novel, is a classic of Western literature, and is regarded amongst the best works of fiction ever written...

, to whose legacy he considers himself most committed.

Originally, he wrote in Czech. From 1993 onwards, he has written his novels in French. Between 1985 and 1987 he undertook the revision of the French translations of his earlier works. As a result, all of his books exist in French with the authority of the original. His books have been translated into many languages.

The Joke

In his first novel, The Joke (1967), he gave a satirical account of the nature of totalitarianism in the Communist era. Kundera was quick to criticize the Soviet invasion in 1968. This led to his blacklist
Blacklist
A blacklist is a list or register of entities who, for one reason or another, are being denied a particular privilege, service, mobility, access or recognition. As a verb, to blacklist can mean to deny someone work in a particular field, or to ostracize a person from a certain social circle...

ing in Czechoslavakia and his works being banned there.

The Book of Laughter and Forgetting

In 1975, Kundera moved to France. There he published The Book of Laughter and Forgetting
The Book of Laughter and Forgetting
The Book of Laughter and Forgetting is a novel by Milan Kundera, published in 1979. It is composed of seven separate narratives united by some common themes. The book considers the nature of forgetting as it occurs in history, politics and life in general...

(1979
1979 in literature
The year 1979 in literature involved some significant events and new books.-New books:*Douglas Adams - The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy*V.C...

) which told of Czech citizens opposing the communist regime in various ways. An unusual mixture of novel, short story collection and author's musings, the book set the tone for his works in exile. Critics have noted the irony that the country that Kundera seemed to be writing about when he talked about Czechoslovakia in the book, "is, thanks to the latest political redefinitions, no longer precisely there" which is The "kind of disappearance and reappearance" Kundera explores in the book.

The Unbearable Lightness of Being

In 1984
1984 in literature
The year 1984 in literature involved some significant events and new books.-Events:*The book Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell is widely read....

, he published The Unbearable Lightness of Being
The Unbearable Lightness of Being
The Unbearable Lightness of Being , written by Milan Kundera, is a philosophical novel about two men, two women, a dog and their lives in the Prague Spring of the Czechoslovak Communist period in 1968. Although written in 1982, the novel was not published until two years later, in France...

, his most famous work. The book chronicled the fragile nature of the fate of the individual and theorized that a single lifetime is insignificant in the scope of Nietzsche's concept of eternal return
Eternal return
Eternal return is a concept which posits that the universe has been recurring, and will continue to recur, in a self-similar form an infinite number of times across infinite time or space. The concept initially inherent in Indian philosophy was later found in ancient Egypt, and was subsequently...

, because in an infinite universe, everything is guaranteed to recur infinitely. In 1988, American director Philip Kaufman
Philip Kaufman
Philip Kaufman is an American film director and screenwriter. His movies have adapted novels of widely different types – from Milan Kundera’s The Unbearable Lightness of Being to Michael Crichton’s Rising Sun; from Tom Wolfe’s heroic epic The Right Stuff to the erotic writings of Anaïs Nin’s...

 released a film version
The Unbearable Lightness of Being (film)
The Unbearable Lightness of Being is a 1988 American film adaptation of the novel of the same name by Milan Kundera, published in 1984. Director Philip Kaufman and screenplay writer Jean-Claude Carrière show Czechoslovak artistic and intellectual life during the Prague Spring of the Communist...

 of the novel.

Immortality

In 1990, Kundera published Immortality
Immortality (novel)
Immortality is a novel in seven parts, written by Milan Kundera in 1988 in Czech. First published 1990 in French. English edition 345 p., translation by Peter Kussi. This novel springs from a casual gesture of a woman, seemingly to her swimming instructor...

. The novel, his last in Czech, was more cosmopolitan than its predecessors. Its content was more explicitly philosophical, as well as less political. It would set the tone for his later novels.

Writing style and philosophy

Kundera's characters are often explicitly identified as figments of his own imagination, commenting in the first-person
First-person narrative
First-person point of view is a narrative mode where a story is narrated by one character at a time, speaking for and about themselves. First-person narrative may be singular, plural or multiple as well as being an authoritative, reliable or deceptive "voice" and represents point of view in the...

 on the characters in entirely third-person stories. Kundera is more concerned with the words that shape or mould his characters than with the characters' physical appearance. In his non-fiction work, The Art of the Novel, he says that the reader's imagination automatically completes the writer's vision. He, as the writer, wishes to focus on the essential insofar as the physical is not critical to an understanding of the character. For him the essential may not include the physical appearance or even the interior world (the psychological world) of his characters. Other times, a specific feature or trait may become the character's idiosyncratic focus.

François Ricard suggested that Kundera conceives with regard to an overall oeuvre, rather than limiting his ideas to the scope of just one novel at a time. His themes and meta-themes exist across the entire oeuvre. Each new book manifests the latest stage of his personal philosophy. Some of these meta-themes include exile, identity, life beyond the border (beyond love, beyond art, beyond seriousness), history as continual return, and the pleasure of a less "important" life. (François Ricard, 2003) Many of Kundera's characters are intended as expositions of one of these themes at the expense of their fully developed humanity. Specifics in regard to the characters tend to be rather vague. Often, more than one main character is used in a novel, even to the extent of completely discontinuing a character and resuming the plot with a brand new character. As he told Philip Roth
Philip Roth
Philip Milton Roth is an American novelist. He gained fame with the 1959 novella Goodbye, Columbus, an irreverent and humorous portrait of Jewish-American life that earned him a National Book Award...

 in an interview in The Village Voice
The Village Voice
The Village Voice is a free weekly newspaper and news and features website in New York City that features investigative articles, analysis of current affairs and culture, arts and music coverage, and events listings for New York City...

: "Intimate life [is] understood as one's personal secret, as something valuable, inviolable, the basis of one's originality.

Kundera's early novels explore the dual tragic and comic aspects of totalitarianism
Totalitarianism
Totalitarianism is a political system where the state recognizes no limits to its authority and strives to regulate every aspect of public and private life wherever feasible...

. He does not view his works, however, as political commentary. "The condemnation of totalitarianism doesn't deserve a novel," says Kundera. According to the Mexican novelist Carlos Fuentes, "What he finds interesting is the similarity between totalitarianism
Totalitarianism
Totalitarianism is a political system where the state recognizes no limits to its authority and strives to regulate every aspect of public and private life wherever feasible...

 and "the immemorial and fascinating dream of a harmonious society where private life and public life form but one unity and all are united around one will and one faith..." In exploring the dark humor of this topic, Kundera seems deeply influenced by Franz Kafka
Franz Kafka
Franz Kafka was a culturally influential German-language author of short stories and novels. Contemporary critics and academics, including Vladimir Nabokov, regard Kafka as one of the best writers of the 20th century...

.

Kundera considers himself to be a writer without a message. For example, in the Sixty-three Words, a chapter in The Art of the Novel, Kundera recounts an episode when a Scandinavian publisher hesitated about going ahead with the publication of The Farewell Party because of the apparent anti-abortion message contained in the novel. Kundera explains that not only was the publisher wrong about the existence of such a message in the work, but, "...I was delighted with the misunderstanding. I had succeeded as a novelist. I succeeded in maintaining the moral ambiguity of the situation. I had kept faith with the essence of the novel as an art: irony. And irony doesn't give a damn about messages!"

He also digresses into musical matters, analyzing Czech folk music, quoting from Leoš Janáček
Leoš Janácek
Leoš Janáček was a Czech composer, musical theorist, folklorist, publicist and teacher. He was inspired by Moravian and all Slavic folk music to create an original, modern musical style. Until 1895 he devoted himself mainly to folkloristic research and his early musical output was influenced by...

 and Bartók. Further in this vein, he interpolates musical excerpts into the text (for example, in The Joke), or discusses Schoenberg
Schoenberg
Schoenberg is the surname of several persons:* Arnold Schoenberg , Austrian-American composer* Claude-Michel Schoenberg , French record producer, actor, singer, popular songwriter, and musical theatre composer...

 and atonality
Atonality
Atonality in its broadest sense describes music that lacks a tonal center, or key. Atonality in this sense usually describes compositions written from about 1908 to the present day where a hierarchy of pitches focusing on a single, central tone is not used, and the notes of the chromatic scale...

.

Controversy

On October 13, 2008, the Czech weekly Respekt
Respekt
Respekt is a weekly newsmagazine in the Czech Republic, reporting on domestic and foreign political and economic issues, as well as on science and culture....

prominently publicised an investigation carried out by the Czech Institute for Studies of Totalitarian Regimes
Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes
The Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes is a Czech government agency and research institute, founded by the Czech government in 2007. Its purpose is to gather, analyse and make accessible documents from the Nazi and Communist regimes...

, which alleged Kundera denounced to the police a young Czech pilot, Miroslav Dvořáček. The accusation was based on a police station report from 1950 which gave "Milan Kundera, student, born 1.4.1929" as the informant. The target of the subsequent arrest, Miroslav Dvořáček, had fled Czechoslovakia after being ordered to join the infantry in the wake of a purge of the flight academy and returned to Czechoslovakia as a Western spy. Dvořáček returned secretly to the student dormitory of a friend's former sweetheart, Iva Militká. Militká was dating (and later married) a fellow student Ivan Dlask, and Dlask knew Kundera. The police report states that Militká told Dlask who told Kundera who told the police of Dvořáček's presence in town. Although the communist prosecutor sought the death penalty, Dvořáček was sentenced to 22 years (as well as being charged 10,000 crowns
Czechoslovak koruna
The Czechoslovak koruna was the currency of Czechoslovakia from April 10, 1919 to March 14, 1939 and from November 1, 1945 to February 7, 1993...

, forfeiting property, and being stripped of civic rights) and ended up serving 14 years in labor camp, with some of that time spent in a uranium mine, before being released.

After Respekt's report (which states that Kundera did not know Dvořáček), Kundera denied turning Dvořáček in to the police, stating he did not know him at all, and could not even recollect "Militská". This denial was broadcast in Czech, but is available in English transcript only in abbreviated paraphrase. On October 14, 2008, the Czech Security Forces Archive ruled out the possibility that the document could be a fake, but refused to make any interpretation about it. (Vojtech Ripka for the Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes said, "There are two pieces of circumstantial evidence [the police report and its sub-file], but we, of course, cannot be one hundred percent sure. Unless we find all survivors, which is unfortunately impossible, it will not be complete", adding both that the signature on the police report matches the name of a man who worked in the corresponding National Security Corps section and, on the other hand, that a police protocol is missing.)

Dvořáček still believes he was betrayed by Iva Militká; his wife said she doubted the "so-called evidence" against Kundera. Dlask, who according to the police report told Kundera of Dvořáček's presence, died in the 1990s. He had told his wife Militká that he had mentioned Dvořáček's arrival to Kundera. Two days after the incident became widely publicised, a counterclaim was made by literary historian Zdeněk Pešat. He said that Dlask was the informant in the case, and Dlask had told him that he had "informed the police." Pešat, then a member of a branch of Czechoslovak Communist Party, said he believed that Dlask informed on Dvořáček to protect his girlfriend from sanctions for being in contact with an agent-provocateur. As Kundera's name still appears as the informer on the police report, this still leaves open the possibility that Kundera informed on Dvořáček to the police (and not the Communist Party branch) separately from Dlask, or had been set up by Dlask to do the deed itself.

In the first-person postscript to Life Is Elsewhere, Kundera (writing as himself) defends his protagonist: he is "a monster. But his monstrosity is potentially contained in us all. It is in me." The protagonist had, among other things, denounced to the authorities a young man about to flee Czechoslovakia. Kundera has since expressed that “The characters in my novels are my own unrealized possibilities.... The novel is not the author’s confession.”

The German newspaper Die Welt
Die Welt
Die Welt is a German national daily newspaper published by the Axel Springer AG company.It was founded in Hamburg in 1946 by the British occupying forces, aiming to provide a "quality newspaper" modelled on The Times...

has compared Kundera to Günter Grass
Günter Grass
Günter Wilhelm Grass is a Nobel Prize-winning German author, poet, playwright, sculptor and artist.He was born in the Free City of Danzig...

, the Nobel Prize
Nobel Prize in Literature
Since 1901, the Nobel Prize in Literature has been awarded annually to an author from any country who has, in the words from the will of Alfred Nobel, produced "in the field of literature the most outstanding work in an ideal direction"...

 winner, who in 2006 was revealed to have served in the Waffen-SS
Waffen-SS
The Waffen-SS was a multi-ethnic and multi-national military force of the Third Reich. It constituted the armed wing of the Schutzstaffel or SS, an organ of the Nazi Party. The Waffen-SS saw action throughout World War II and grew from three regiments to over 38 divisions, and served alongside...

 in the Second World War. Ivan Klima wrote in the daily Lidové noviny
Lidové noviny
Lidové noviny is a daily newspaper published in the Czech Republic. It is the oldest Czech daily. Its profile is nowadays a national news daily covering political, economic, cultural and scientific affairs, mostly with a centre-right, conservative view...

: "From a reader’s perspective it may well be true that if we are disappointed in someone we believed in and admired, our feelings are hurt and our trust is shaken. However, none of this should be used to excuse or exculpate our own misdeeds." Václav Havel
Václav Havel
Václav Havel is a Czech playwright, essayist, poet, dissident and politician. He was the tenth and last President of Czechoslovakia and the first President of the Czech Republic . He has written over twenty plays and numerous non-fiction works, translated internationally...

 did not believe the story and, on 3 November 2008, eleven internationally well-known writers came to Kundera's defence, including Salman Rushdie, Fernando Arrabal
Fernando Arrabal
Fernando Arrabal Terán is a Spanish playwright, screenwriter, film director, novelist and poet. He settled in France in 1955, he describes himself as “desterrado,” or “half-expatriate, half-exiled.”...

, Philip Roth
Philip Roth
Philip Milton Roth is an American novelist. He gained fame with the 1959 novella Goodbye, Columbus, an irreverent and humorous portrait of Jewish-American life that earned him a National Book Award...

, Carlos Fuentes
Carlos Fuentes
Carlos Fuentes Macías is a Mexican writer and one of the best-known living novelists and essayists in the Spanish-speaking world. He has influenced contemporary Latin American literature, and his works have been widely translated into English and other languages.-Biography:Fuentes was born in...

, Gabriel García Márquez
Gabriel García Márquez
Gabriel José de la Concordia García Márquez is a Colombian novelist, short-story writer, screenwriter and journalist, known affectionately as Gabo throughout Latin America. He is considered one of the most significant authors of the 20th century. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in...

, J.M. Coetzee, Orhan Pamuk
Orhan Pamuk
Ferit Orhan Pamuk , generally known simply as Orhan Pamuk, is a Turkish novelist. He is also the Robert Yik-Fong Tam Professor in the Humanities at Columbia University, where he teaches comparative literature and writing....

, Jorge Semprún
Jorge Semprún
Jorge Semprún Maura was a Spanish writer and politician who lived in France most of his life and wrote primarily in French. From 1953 to 1962, during the era of Francisco Franco, Semprún lived clandestinely in Spain working as an organizer for the exiled Communist Party of Spain, but was expelled...

 and Nadine Gordimer
Nadine Gordimer
Nadine Gordimer is a South African writer and political activist. She was awarded the 1991 Nobel Prize in Literature when she was recognised as a woman "who through her magnificent epic writing has – in the words of Alfred Nobel – been of very great benefit to humanity".Her writing has long dealt...

.

Awards

In 1985, Kundera received the Jerusalem Prize
Jerusalem Prize
The Jerusalem Prize for the Freedom of the Individual in Society is a biennial literary award given to writers whose works have dealt with themes of human freedom in society. It is awarded at the Jerusalem International Book Fair, and the recipient usually delivers an address when accepting the award...

. His acceptance address is printed in his essay collection The Art of the Novel. He has also been mentioned as a contender for the Nobel Prize for literature.
He won The Austrian State Prize for European Literature in 1987. In 2000, he was awarded the international Herder Prize
Herder Prize
The Herder Prize, established in 1963 and named for Johann Gottfried von Herder, was a prestigious international prize dedicated to the promotion of scientific, art and literature relations, and presented to scholars and artists from Central and Southeastern Europe whose life and work have improved...

. In 2007, he was awarded the Czech State Literature Prize. In 2010, he was made an honorary citizen of his hometown, Brno. In 2011, he received the Ovid Prize
Ovid Prize
The Ovid Prize, established in 2002, is a literary prize awarded annually to an author from any country, in recognition of a body of work. Past recipients include Orhan Pamuk, Andrei Codrescu, Amoz Oz, Jorge Semprún and António Lobo Antunes. It is named in honour of the Roman poet Ovid, who died in...

.

Poetry collections

  • Člověk zahrada širá (Man: A Wide Garden) (1953)
  • Poslední máj (The Last May) (1955) – celebration of Julius Fučík
    Julius Fucík
    thumb|Julius FucikJulius Fučík was a Czechoslovak journalist, an active member of Communist Party of Czechoslovakia , and part of the forefront of the anti-Nazi resistance. He was imprisoned, tortured, and executed by the Nazis.- Early life :Julius Fučík was born into a working-class family in...

  • Monology (Monologues) (1957)

Essays

  • O sporech dědických (About the Disputes of Inheritance) (1955)
  • Umění románu: Cesta Vladislava Vančury za velkou epikou (The Art of the Novel: Vladislav Vančura's Path to the Great Epic) (1960)
  • Český úděl (The Czech Deal) (1968)
  • Radikalizmus a expozice (Radicalism and Exhibitionism) (1969)
  • The Stolen West or The Tragedy of Central Europe (Únos západu aneb Tragédie střední Evropy) (1983)
  • The Art of the Novel (L'art du Roman) (1986)
  • Testaments Betrayed (Les testaments trahis) (1992)
  • D'en bas tu humeras les roses - rare book in French, illustrated by Ernest Breleur (1993)
  • The Curtain
    The Curtain (Milan Kundera)
    The Curtain is a seven-part essay by Milan Kundera, along with The Art of the Novel and Testaments Betrayed composing a type of trilogy of book-length essays on the European novel....

     (Le Rideau)
    (2005)
  • Une rencontre (The Encounter) (2009)

Drama

  • Majitelé klíčů (The Owner of the Keys) (1962)
  • Dvě uši, dvě svatby (Two Ears, Two Weddings) (1968)
  • Ptákovina (The Blunder
    The Blunder
    The Blunder is a Czech play by Milan Kundera.- Činoherní klub, Prague :*Directed by Ladislav Smoček. Preview was 9th June 2008, 11th June 2008 and 13th June 2008. Te premiere was 19th September 2008 in The Drama Club, Prague....

    ) (1969)
  • Jacques and his Master
    Jacques and his Master
    Jacques and his Master is a play written in 1971 by Milan Kundera, which he subtitles "A Homage to Diderot in Three Acts". It was translated by Simon Callow in 1986 and directed by him in 1987.-Plot:...

     (Jakub a jeho pán: Pocta Denisu Diderotovi)
    (1971)

Short stories

From the Collection Laughable Loves
Laughable Loves
Laughable Loves is a collection of seven short stories written by Milan Kundera in which he presents his characteristic savage humour by mixing the extremes of tragedy with comic situations in relationships.-Stories:...

 (Směšné lásky)
(1969)

"Nobody Will Laugh"

"The Golden Apple of Eternal Desire"

"The Hitchhiking Game"

"Symposium"

"Let the Old Dead Make Room for the Young Dead"

"Dr. Havel After Twenty Years"

"Eduard and God"

Novels

  • The Joke (Žert) (1967)
  • The Farewell Waltz
    The Farewell Waltz
    The Farewell Waltz is a Czech-language novel by Milan Kundera published in 1972. A French edition was published in 1976 and an English version entitled The Farewell Party....

     (Valčík na rozloučenou)
    (Original translation title: The Farewell Party) (1972)
  • Life Is Elsewhere
    Life Is Elsewhere
    Life Is Elsewhere is a Czech-language novel by Milan Kundera published in 1973.The setting for Life Is Elsewhere is Czechoslovakia before, during, and after the Second World War, and tells the story of Jaromil, a character who dedicates his life to poetry....

     (Život je jinde)
    (1973)
  • The Book of Laughter and Forgetting
    The Book of Laughter and Forgetting
    The Book of Laughter and Forgetting is a novel by Milan Kundera, published in 1979. It is composed of seven separate narratives united by some common themes. The book considers the nature of forgetting as it occurs in history, politics and life in general...

     (Kniha smíchu a zapomnění)
    (1978)
  • The Unbearable Lightness of Being
    The Unbearable Lightness of Being
    The Unbearable Lightness of Being , written by Milan Kundera, is a philosophical novel about two men, two women, a dog and their lives in the Prague Spring of the Czechoslovak Communist period in 1968. Although written in 1982, the novel was not published until two years later, in France...

     (Nesnesitelná lehkost bytí)
    (1984)
  • Immortality
    Immortality (novel)
    Immortality is a novel in seven parts, written by Milan Kundera in 1988 in Czech. First published 1990 in French. English edition 345 p., translation by Peter Kussi. This novel springs from a casual gesture of a woman, seemingly to her swimming instructor...

     (Nesmrtelnost)
    (1990)
  • Slowness
    Slowness (novel)
    Slowness , published in 1995 in France, is a novel written in French by Milan Kundera. In the book, Kundera manages to weave together a number of plot lines, characters and themes in just over 150 pages...

     (La Lenteur)
    (1995)
  • Identity (L'Identité) (1998)
  • Ignorance
    Ignorance (Milan Kundera)
    Ignorance is a novel by Milan Kundera. It was written in 1999 in French and published in 2000. It was translated into English in 2002 by Linda Asher, for which she was awarded the Scott Moncrieff Prize the following year.-Plot introduction:...

     (L'Ignorance)
    (2000)

Biographical


Book reviews; interviews

  • Review. The Unbearable Lightness of Being April 2, 1984 New York Times. Retrieved 2010-09-25
  • 'Reading with Kundera' By Russell Banks 4 March 2007 New York Times. Retrieved 2010-09-25
  • Review of Slowness
    Slowness (novel)
    Slowness , published in 1995 in France, is a novel written in French by Milan Kundera. In the book, Kundera manages to weave together a number of plot lines, characters and themes in just over 150 pages...

    from the The Review of European Studies. Retrieved 2010-09-25
  • "Of Dogs and death" A review of Une Recontre (An Encounter) 27 April 2009. The Oxonian Review. Retrieved 2010-09-25
  • Interview with Kundera The Review of Contemporary Fiction, Summer 1989, 9.2. Retrieved 2010-09-25

Open letters

  • "Two Messages". Article by Václav Havel
    Václav Havel
    Václav Havel is a Czech playwright, essayist, poet, dissident and politician. He was the tenth and last President of Czechoslovakia and the first President of the Czech Republic . He has written over twenty plays and numerous non-fiction works, translated internationally...

     in Salon October 2008. Retrieved 2010-09-25
  • "The Flawed Defence" Article by Milan Kundera in Salon November 2008. Retrieved 2010-09-25
  • "Informing und Terror", by Ivan Klíma, about the Kundera controversy Salon October 2008. Retrieved 2010-09-25
  • Leprosy by Jiří Stránský, about the Kundera controversy, Salon October 2008. Retrieved 2010-09-25
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