Many details surrounding his passing are still unknown, but a representative for the Milan Kundera Library in his hometown of Brno confirmed on Wednesday that he passed away the day before “after a prolonged illness.”
Kundera, who was among the most well-known authors to have come from the Czech literary landscape over the course of the past century together with Franz Kafka and Vaclav Havel, was regularly praised for his writing style, which typically mixed themes of tedium with extravagance.
The writer who was touted as a contender for the Nobel Prize in Literature was celebrated for his revered works, including ‘The Joke’, ‘The Book of Laughter and Forgetting’ and ‘The Unbearable Lightness of Being.’
Kundera was born in Brno in 1929 but moved to France in 1975, after criticizing the 1968 Soviet incursion in then-Czechoslovakia. He was stripped of his Czech citizenship four years after arriving in France, where he was granted citizenship in 1981.
The son of a famous pianist, Kundera began his studies in Prague, where he would later join the Communist Party and make literary inroads by translating the works of French poet Guillaume Apollinaire. He also taught at a film school, where Milos Forman the Oscar-winning director of ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’ was among his students.Milan Kundera, the Czech-born novelist and essayist who authored ‘The Unbearable Lightness of Being’ and ‘The Joke,’ has died in Paris at the age of 94, Czech broadcaster CT24 reported on Wednesday.
Much of the circumstances of his death have not yet been revealed, however a spokesperson for the Milan Kundera Library in his native Brno confirmed on Wednesday that he died a day prior “after a prolonged illness.”
Kundera who, along with Franz Kafka and Vaclav Havel, was among the most prominent writers to have emerged from the Czech literary scene over the course of the past century, was frequently hailed for his writing style, which often merged themes of mundanity with extravagance.
The Unbearable Lightness of Being, his best-known book, explored themes of freedom and desire against the backdrop of the Prague Spring. A movie based on the 1984 book, starring Daniel Day-Lewis and Juliette Binoche, was produced in 1987.
However, throughout his more than 40 years of exile in France, Kundera was criticised for allegedly abandoning a generation of Czech dissidents. Allegations in a Czech magazine that Kundera had been a police informant in his home country were rejected by Kundera as “pure lies” in 2008.
In 2013, Kundera published what would be his final novel, ‘The Festival of Insignificance’. The book told the story of five friends living in Paris, but received mixed reviews from the literary press, with The Guardian describing it as a “stinker.”
After four decades in France with only brief and occasional visits back to his homeland, Kundera and his wife Vera had their Czech citizenship restored in 2019 following a meeting with then-Prime Minister Andrej Babis. A year later, the Czech ambassador in France personally delivered Kundera’s citizenship certificate, describing it as an “important symbolic gesture, a symbolic return of the greatest Czech writer in the Czech Republic.”
Earlier this year, the Milan Kundera Library was officially opened in Brno, ensuring that the author’s literary reach will extend beyond his passing.