Milan Kundera

(b. 1929)

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(1929– )

Czech novelist and writer living in France, who is noted for his poignant sexual comedies.

Kundera was born in Brno, the son of the pianist and musicologist Ludvik Kundera. He studied film at the Prague Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts, where he later (1958–69) followed an academic career. In his twenties he published several volumes of poetry, which incurred official displeasure for their sexual content and irreverent attitude. His first novel, The Joke (1967), was still more daring, being an ironic exploration of the private lives of Czechs during the years of Stalinism; its publication was a sign of the increasing liberalization of Czech life in 1967–68, a movement in which Kundera participated keenly. Following the Soviet-led invasion of 1968, however, he was removed from his teaching posts and saw the proscription of all his works. His next novel, Life is Elsewhere, was a satirical treatment of events following the communist takeover of 1948; it was published in France in 1973.

In 1975 Kundera was permitted to emigrate to France, where he took up teaching posts in Rennes and Paris. Stripped of his Czech citizenship in 1979, he became a French national two years later. Subsequent novels, such as the semi-autobiographical The Book of Laughter and Forgetting (1979) and The Unbearable Lightness of Being (1984; filmed 1987), enjoyed great success in the West but remained banned in Czechoslovakia until the fall of communism. He published Immortality in 1990 and Slowness, his first work in French, in 1995.

Subjects: Literature.

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