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The Independent UK
The Independent UK
Annabel Nugent

Milan Kundera death: Czech-born author of The Unbearable Lightness of Being dies at 94


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

The writer’s death was reported on Wednesday (12 July) by public broadcaster Czech Television.

A spokesperson for Gallimard, Kundera’s publisher in France, confirmed to The New York Times that Kundera had died in Paris “after a prolonged illness”.

Kundera is the award-winning author of the 1984 novel The Unbearable Lightness of Being, which followed the lives of two couples in the 1968 Prague Spring period of Czechoslovak history.

His other books include The Joke (1967), Immortality (1988), Laughable Loves (1969) and The Farewell Waltz (1972).

A celebrated novelist, playwright, poet and essayist, Kundera was born in the Czech city of Brno.

In 1950, he was expelled from the Czechoslovakian party for “anti-communist activities” before he eventually emigrated to France in 1975. He had been a vocal voice for the Prague Spring.

In 1979, his Czech citizenship was revoked. Two years later, he became a French citizen.

Milan Kundera
— (AP)

In 2008, Kundera was accused of betraying a Czech airman working for US intelligence more than 50 years earlier. He issued a strong denial to the Czech press, saying he was “totally astonished” and calling the allegations “the assassination of an author”.

An open letter signed by authors including Salman Rushdie and JM Coetzee argued that despite the claims of the magazine that published the accusation, “a witness statement by an eminent Prague scientist clears [Kundera] of any guilt”.

In 2019, after more than 40 years in exile, the author, then 90, had his citizenship of his homeland restored.

The Czech Republic’s ambassador to France Petre Drulák told reporters that he had visited Kundera’s apartment in Paris to hand deliver the citizenship certificate, noting that the author had been in a “good mood” when he “just took the document and said thank you”.

Published in 1988, Immortality was Kundera’s last novel to be written in Czech. His subsequent four novels were written in French. Most recently, he released 2015’s The Festival of Insignificance, which he wrote in his mid-eighties.

The Unbearable Lightness of Being remains Kunder’s most enduringly popular novel. The book was an instant success when it was published in 1984 and was reprinted in at least 24 languages.

It was adapted into a 1988 film, which starred Daniel Day Lewis, Juliette Binoche and Lena Olin.

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