Dark Mode
Monday, 04 March 2024
Milan Kundera, author of 'The Unbearable Lightness of Being', dies aged 94
Milan Kundera

 Czech-born writer Milan Kundera, author of the novel "The Unbearable Lightness of Being" who lived nearly five decades in Paris, has died at the age of 94.

The Moravian Library (MZK), which houses Kundera's personal collection, said he had died in his Paris apartment on Tuesday after a long illness.

Kundera won accolades for the way he depicted themes and characters that floated between the mundane reality of everyday life and the lofty world of ideas.

"Milan Kundera was a writer who reached whole generations of readers across all continents and achieved global fame," Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala said.

"He leaves behind not only notable fiction, but also significant essay work."

Kundera was born in the Czech city of Brno but emigrated to France in 1975 after being ostracised for criticising the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia to put down the liberal reform movement of the Prague Spring in 1968.

He rarely gave interviews, believing writers should speak through their work, but his relationship with his home country was often difficult after his departure.

His first novel, "The Joke", was published in 1967 and offered a scathing portrayal of the Czechoslovak Communist regime and the party he was still a member of.

He ultimately abandoned his hopes that the party could be reformed, and moved to France in 1975. Four years later, he was stripped of his Czechoslovak citizenship.

He told the French daily Le Monde in 1976 that to call his works political was to oversimplify, and therefore obscure their true significance, but his books often took a political tone.

"The Book of Laughter and Forgetting" (1979) was a story written in seven parts that showed the power of totalitarian regimes to erase parts of history and create an alternative past.

His most famous work, "The Unbearable Lightness of Being" (1984), centred on the Prague Spring and its aftermath.

It was made into a film starring Daniel Day-Lewis and directed by Philip Kaufman in 1988 that earned two Academy Award nominations.

Kundera was made a citizen of the Czech Republic in 2019.

Reporting by Jan Lopatka and Robert Muller in Prague and Elizabeth Pineau in Paris; Writing by Michael Kahn and Jason Hovet; Editing by Toby Chopra and Editing by Kevin Liffey