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Summary Article: Kundera, Milan
From Chambers Biographical Dictionary


♦ French novelist

Born in Brno, Czechoslovakia, he was educated in Prague at Charles University and the Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts Film Faculty, and worked as a labourer and a jazz musician before devoting himself to literature. For several years he was a professor at the Prague Institute for Advanced Cinematographic Studies. Zert (Eng trans The Joke, 1969), his first novel, was published in 1967. After the Russian invasion in 1968 he lost his post and his books were proscribed. In 1975 he settled in France and took French citizenship. Zert and the stories in Směšné lásky (1970, Eng trans Laughable Loves, 1974) were his only books to have been published in his homeland. The publication in 1979 of Kniha smichu a zapomnění (Eng trans The Book of Laughter and Forgetting, USA, 1980; UK, 1982) prompted the revocation of his Czech citizenship. Once described as "a healthy sceptic whose novels are all anti-something", in exile he has emerged as one of the major European writers of the late 20th century. Other novels include Nesnesitelná lehkost bytí (1984, Eng trans The Unbearable Lightness of Being, 1984), Nesmrtelnost (1990, Eng trans Immortality, 1991), La Lenteur (1995, Eng trans Slowness, 1996), which was his first novel written in French, L'Identité (1998, Eng trans Identity) and L'Ignorance (2000, Eng trans Ignorance, 2002). He has also published a critical work, Umění romanu (1960, Eng trans Art of the Novel, 1988). He became embroiled in controversy in 2008 when a document appeared to show him guilty of denouncing a Czech dissident to the police.

  • Banerjee, M N, Terminal Paradox: The Novels of Milan Kundera (1991).
© Chambers Harrap Publishers Ltd 2011

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