Milan Kundera, Czech-French Author, Passes Away at 94

ČTK / Gallimard

Milan Kundera, the Czech-French author, passed away at 94 in France. He was a novelist, playwright, poet, and essayist who became the most significant Czech writer of the second half of the 20th century.

Although Kundera lived in French exile with his wife Vera since 1975 and was stripped of his Czechoslovak citizenship in 1979, he still considered himself a Czech writer. His works from the 1960s and his subsequent exiled works are essential to the Czech literary canon. In the new millennium, his most extensive and most developed work written in French, “Ignorance,” was added to his Czech version, translated by Anna Karenina.

Kundera’s novels are known for their philosophical themes and exploration of politics, history, and the human condition. Some of his most famous works include “The Unbearable Lightness of Being,” “Life Is Elsewhere,” and “The Joke.”

Kundera was born in Brno, Czech Republic, in 1929. His father, Ludvík Kundera, was a pianist, musicologist, and music educator at the Janáček Academy of Music and Performing Arts. His cousin was a poet and translator, Ludvík Kundera. After graduating high school, Milan moved to Prague, where he studied at Charles University and the Film and TV School of the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague (FAMU). He later taught world literature at FAMU.

Kundera’s literary career began with poetry collections “Man: A Broad Garden” and “Monologues” in the late 1940s and early 1950s. In the 1960s, he published several novels, including “The Joke,” banned in Czechoslovakia in 1968 after the Soviet invasion. Kundera and his wife left Czechoslovakia in 1975 and moved to France, where he was granted citizenship in 1981.

His works, which were published in French, became worldwide bestsellers, and he received numerous literary awards, including the Jerusalem Prize, the Austrian State Prize for European Literature, and the Ovid Prize.

In 2019, Kundera’s Czech citizenship was restored. His death is a significant loss to the literary world, and his works will continue to inspire future generations.