Milan Kundera dead: Celebrated author who fled Communism and wrote The Unbearable Lightness Of Being dies aged 94 | The Sun

CZECH-FRENCH writer Milan Kundera, famed for his poems, essays and novels including The Unbearable Lightness Of Being, has died aged 94.

"Unfortunately I can confirm that Mr Milan Kundera passed away yesterday after a prolonged illness," said Anna Mrazova, spokeswoman for the library in his native city of Brno.

"He died at home, in his Paris apartment," she said.

The novelist, poet and essayist lived and worked in France since he left Communist-ruled Czechoslovakia in 1975.

He was known for dark, provocative novels dealing with the human condition and sprinkled with satire reflecting his experience of being stripped of his Czech nationality for dissent.

By far his most famous work, The Unbearable Lightness of Being, was published in 1984 and turned into a Hollywood hit starring Daniel Day-Lewis and Juliette Binoche in 1988.

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Born on April 1, 1929, in the second Czech city of Brno, Kundera studied in Prague.

He started out writing poetry, short stories, and teaching at a film school, where his students included the future Oscar-winning director Milos Forman.

His breakthrough novel, The Joke, about a young man expelled from university and the Communist Party over an innocent joke was published in 1967.

A once-enthusiastic communist, Kundera was expelled from the party twice, firstly over "anti-communist activities" in 1950, and later for falling out of favour with the authorities as he publicly called for free speech and equal rights.

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After the Prague Spring reform movement – which he helped to lead – was crushed by Soviet-led armies in 1968 and he lost hope that things would ever change, Kundera left for France.

Rarely speaking to the public, Kundera was stripped of Czech nationality in 1979, following the publication of The Book of Laughter and Forgetting.

He became a French national in 1981.

His most renowned work, The Unbearable Lightness of Being, was published soon after in 1984.

The novel is a morality tale about freedom and passion, on both an individual and collective level, set against the Prague Spring and its aftermath in exile.

Criticised for turning sour with his homeland and for his decision to ban the translation of his French books into Czech, Kundera only regained his Czech nationality in 2019.

It was 30 years after former Czechoslovakia shed the Moscow-steered Communist rule in the Velvet Revolution of 1989, and 26 years after the country's peaceful split into the Czech Republic and Slovakia in 1993.

On his birthday this year, the Moravian Library in Brno opened the Milan Kundera Library on one of its floors.

Kundera was frequently touted as a favourite to win the Nobel Prize for literature, but he never did.

"Not only Czech literature, but world literature as well has lost one of the greatest contemporary writers, and one of the most translated writers too," Tomas Kubicek, director of the Kundera library, told Czech TV.

European lawmakers in Strasbourg held a minute's silence today in memory of the literary legend.

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Also born in Brno, Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala said Kundera was able to "appeal to whole generations of readers across all continents" with his work.

"He leaves behind remarkable novelistic but also outstanding essayistic work," Fiala added on Twitter.

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