Milan Kundera was born in Brno, but people often believe he was a French. However, this incredibly talented writer whose thrilling style excites generations of readers stays one of the most important writers of the 20th century Europe. Kundera was born in 1929 and until 1975 lived in the Czech Republic. He went into exile in France in 1975 and became a naturalized French citizen six years later. His father was Ludvik Kundera, an important Czech musicologist, and pianist, who served as a head of famous Janacek music Academy in Brno. Milan learned to play piano from his father. His musical education reflects in the construction of his books.
Kundera sees himself as a French writer. He was discriminated and his books were banned during the Communist régime in Czechoslovakia. It is impossible to classify his books, but his early poetry was pro-communists. That’s one of the reasons why some critics still cannot accept the rebellious visions by him. He studied literature and aesthetics at the Faculty of Arts at Charles University in Prague, and later at Film Faculty of the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague. Kundera has always been committed to Czech communism. His arguments with Vaclav Havel were one of the most spectacular conflicts in Czech of 1970s. When he moved to France he taught at the University of Rennes.
The Unbearable Lightness of Being
“Making love with a woman and sleeping with a woman are two separate passions, not merely different but opposite. Love does not make itself felt in the desire for copulation (a desire that extends to an infinite number of women) but in the desire for shared sleep (a desire limited to one woman).”
― Milan Kundera, The Unbearable Lightness of Being
His most famous and appreciated book is „The Unbearable Lightness of Being”. This book broke the canon, became the most scandalous novel of Czechoslovakia. Similarly to his other novels, it is out of ideological classification.It was published in 1984. The plot is a chronicle of the fragile nature of an individual’s fate. The story inspired by the concept of eternal return by Nietzsche became an inspiration to American director Philip Kaufman who released a film adaptation of this book in 1988.
The other books like The Joke, Life Is Elsewhere, The Book of Laughter and Forgetting, etc., found applause but didn’t repeat the success of The Unbearable Lightness of Being.
Kundera’s philosophy of life
“Anyone whose goal is ‘something higher’ must expect someday to suffer vertigo. What is vertigo? Fear of falling? No, Vertigo is something other than fear of falling. It is the voice of the emptiness below us which tempts and lures us, it is the desire to fall, against which, terrified, we defend ourselves.” ~ Milan Kundera, The Unbearable Lightness of Being
His books consist strong characters, but the plot is usually a comment in the first person on the characters in the third-person stories. Some critics called him arrogant towards the plot because he is more concerned with the words that shape the story and characters.
Kundera received numerous prizes including the Jerusalem Prize, The Austrian State Prize for European Literature, Czech State Literature Prize, Prix Mondial Cino Del Duca. For at least a few times was nominated for the Noble Prize in Literature. Finally, the asteroid 7390 Kundera, discovered at the Kleť Observatory in 1983, is named in his honor.
Kundera rarely arrives at his homeland, he prefers to stay far away from a place of his birth. However, he confessed that each time he visits the Czech Republic, he prefers to do it incognito. He doesn’t like interviews, rarely speak to media and continues life in France.