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Czech-born writer Milan Kundera dies aged 94

Czech-born writer Milan Kundera
Czech-born writer Milan Kundera Copyright Jovan Dezort/AP
Copyright Jovan Dezort/AP
By Jonny Walfisz
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Czech television has announced the death of Czech-born writer Milan Kundera aged-94 best-known for his novel, The Unbearable Lightness of Being.

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Acclaimed Czech-born French author Milan Kundera has died aged 94.

Born in Brno, in modern-day Czechia, in 1929, Kundera wrote 10 novels, three poetry collections, a short story collection and many essays. His literary works are known for their deep philosophical themes, political allusions, and heartrending plots.

His death was reported by public broadcaster Czech Television. There are no more details released at this time.

Kundera’s most famous work is ‘The Unbearable Lightness of Being’, published in 1984. It follows Tomáš and Tereza, a couple living through the 1968 Prague Spring as they navigate political turmoil, adultery and pet ownership, all through the lens of a Nietzschean metaphysics.

‘The Unbearable Lightness of Being’ was adapted into a film in 1988 by Philip Kaufman and featured Daniel Day-Lewis, Lena Olin and Juliette Binoche in the leading roles. Kundera wasn’t a fan of the film and refused permission to adapt other works after it.

Other significant works of his include his first novel, 1967’s ‘The Joke’, a satire of the USSR’s Communism, particularly focusing on propaganda, which led to Kundera being blacklisted in 1968. His final novel, 2014’s ‘The Festival of Insignificance’ was written in French and brought together themes of relationships and existentialism.

In 1975, Kundera went into exile from Czechoslovakia and moved to France. His Czech citizenship was revoked in 1979 and he acquired French citizenship in 1981. Although his Czech citizenship was restored in 2019, Kundera remained adamant that he be considered a “French writer”. From his seventh book 1995’s ‘Slowness’ or ‘La Lenteur’ onwards, his novels were written in French, instead of his native Czech.

Kundera was acclaimed in his lifetime. In 1975, he received the Jerusalem Prize. He received the Austrian State Prize for European Literature in 1987, the Herder Prize in 2000, the Czech State Literature Prize in 2007, the Prix mondial Cino Del Duca in 2009, and was made an honorary citizen of his hometown Brno in 2010. He received the Ovid Prize in 2011 and the Franz Kafka Prize in 2020. He was routinely touted as a contender for the Nobel Prize in Literature.

Additional sources • AP

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