A condolence book and portrait of Milan Kundera at the Moravian Library in Brno, Czech Republic, on 12 July 2023. The Czech-born writer died at the age of 94 in Paris. EFE/EPA/TOMAS SKODA

Author Milan Kundera dies

International Desk, Jul 12 (EFE).- Czech-born writer Milan Kundera died at his home in France after a long illness, a spokeswoman at the Moravian Library in the author’s native Brno said Wednesday. He was 94.

An Italian television journalist reports on 12 July 2023 from outside of the Paris apartment building where Milan Kundera lived with wife Vera Hrabankova. The Czech-born writer died at the age of 94. EFE/EPA/YOAN VALAT

“Milan Kundera, a Czech-French author who is among the world’s most translated authors, died on July 11, 2023 in his Paris apartment,” Anna Mrazova said in a statement.

Milan Kundera in Madrid on 2 May 2005. EFE/File

In 2021, the author of “The Unbearable Lightness of Being” donated his private library and archive to the institution in his hometown.

Kundera and his wife, Vera Hrabankova, left what was then Czechoslovakia for France in 1975 after the writer’s books were banned and he was blacklisted because of his support for the “Prague Spring,” crushed by Soviet intervention in 1968.

Authorities in Czechoslovakia stripped the couple of their citizenship in 1979, two years before French President Francois Mitterrand made them citizens of France.

Though the ban on his books in Czechoslovakia ended with the Velvet Revolution of 1989 and the Czech Republic restored their citizenship in 2019, Kundera and Hrabankova remained in France and he eventually began writing his books in French.

The son of a prominent musicologist, Kundera came to writing from a background in music and in 1952, he secured a position teaching world literature at the film academy in Prague.

Kundera, who even in exile rejected the label of dissident writer, was a committed Communist in his youth and would not have gotten the job at the film academy if he had not been reinstated as a party member following his expulsion in 1950.

His first novel, “The Joke,” was published in 1967 to a warm reception, even though it was a politically charged tale about a young man in the Stalinist Czechoslovakia of 1949 who finds himself sent to work in a coal mine as punishment after writing “Long Live Trotsky!”

But after the Russians invaded to oust Communist Party chief Alexander Dubcek, advocate of “socialism with a human face,” Kundera’s book was withdrawn from libraries and bookshops.

Two years after the Soviet intervention, Kundera was expelled from the Communist Party for a second time, fired from his teaching position, and reduced to surviving from whatever he could earn as a day laborer and musician playing in jazz clubs.

Once in the West, Kundera developed a friendship with acclaimed American novelist Philip Roth, who published the Czech’s work in the United States in a series called Writers from the Other Europe.

Kundera’s breakthrough came in 1984, when “The Unbearable Lightness of Being” – written in Czech – was published in French and English.

Four years later, the book, which takes place against the backdrop of the Prague Spring and its aftermath, was made into a Hollywood film starring Daniel Day-Lewis and Juliette Binoche.

By contrast, “Immortality,” Kundera’s last novel written in Czech, is set in contemporary France.

The usually publicity averse Kundera spoke out in 2008 after a research institute in Prague accused him of having informed the Communist government in 1950 about a Czech who was working for US intelligence.

Kundera told Czech news agency CTK that he was “totally astonished” by the allegations, and a group of prominent writers including Roth, Salman Rushdie, and JM Coetzee published an open letter noting that “a witness statement by an eminent Prague scientist clears (Kundera) of any guilt.”