CAUSE OF DEATH: Czech author, Milan Kundera, has died after battle with prolonged illness KossyDerrickBlog KossyDerrickEnt

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Wednesday, July 12, 2023

CAUSE OF DEATH: Czech author, Milan Kundera, has died after battle with prolonged illness

Czech author, Milan Kundera, has died after battle with prolonged illness.

Czech writer Milan Kundera, who explored being and betrayal over half a century in poems, plays, essays and novels including The Unbearable Lightness of Being, has died aged 94 after a prolonged illness (cause of death), Anna Mrazova, spokeswoman for the Milan Kundera Library, has confirmed.

Famously leaving his homeland for France in 1975 after earlier being expelled from the Czechoslovakian Communist party for “anti-communist activities”, Kundera spent 40 years living in exile in Paris after his Czech citizenship was revoked in 1979. There he wrote his most famous works, including Nesnesitelná lehkost bytí (The Unbearable Lightness of Being) and later left behind his mother tongue to write novels in French, beginning with 1995’s La Lenteur (Slowness) and his final novel, 2014’s The Festival of Insignificance. He was often cited as a contender for the Nobel prize in literature.

Born on 1 April 1929 in Brno, Kundera studied music with his father, a noted pianist and musicologist, before turning to writing, becoming a lecturer in world literature at Prague’s film academy in 1952. Despite rejecting the socialist realism required of writers in 50s Czechoslovakia, his literary reputation grew with the publication of a series of poems and plays, including an ode to the communist hero Julius Fučík, Poslední máj (The Last May), published in 1955. He later rejected these early works, saying that he was “working in many different directions – looking for my voice, my style and myself.”


An enthusiastic member of the Communist party in his youth, Kundera was expelled from the party twice, once after “anti-communist activities” in 1950, and again in 1970 during the clampdown that followed the 1968 Prague Spring, of which he was one of the leading voices, publicly calling for freedom of speech and equal rights for all. His first novel, 1967’s Žert (The Joke), was inspired by the period and became a great success. A polyphonic examination of fate and rationality set around a joke about Trotsky that a student writes to impress a girl, the novel vanished from bookshops and libraries after Russian tanks arrived in Wenceslas Square. Kundera found himself blacklisted and fired from his teaching job. Working in small-town cabarets as a jazz trumpeter, he found artistic freedom at last – the impossibility of publication had, in a way, lifted the burden of censorship from his shoulders.

In his first novel Kundera wrote of his problems with the authorities, weaving a story full of dark humour that was published during the ideological detente before the Prague Spring.

It both sealed his fate with the authorities, who would later strip him of his citizenship, and made him famous within Czechoslovakia.

The 1988 film adaptation of “The Unbearable Lightness of Being” was directed by Philip Kaufman and starred Daniel Day-Lewis and Juliette Binoche. Jean-Claude Carrière and Kaufman were Oscar nominated for adapted screenplay, and Sven Nykvist was Oscar nominated for cinematography.

Other films based on his work include 1969’s “The Joke,” directed by Jaromil Jires, which played at San Sebastián Film Festival.

Internationally praised but unpublished in the Czech Republic until 2016, Kundera's second novel tells the story of a young poet who fails to break free from his adoring mother and dies an absurd death.

Humorously exploring the hopes and fantasies of youth through his protagonist, who seeks his freedom through art and revolution, Kundera saw parallels with his own evolution from poetry to the existential novel.

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