Anti-Communist Activist Writer Milan Kundera Dies at 94

The Czech-born novelist Milan Kundera died in his Paris apartment on Tuesday at the age of 94 after a long illness, Reuters reported.

Kundera, who is best known for his novel “The Unbearable Lightness of Being,” had been living in Paris for nearly fifty years after leaving communist-ruled Czechoslovakia in the mid-1970s.

Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala praised Kundera’s writing, saying his work “reached whole generations of readers” throughout the world. President Petr Pavel remembered Kundera as a “world-class writer” who was a symbol of “the eventful history” of 20th Century Czechoslovakia.

Born in Brno in 1929, Kundera emigrated to France in 1975 after he was ostracised in his home country for criticizing the Soviet invasion in 1968 that subdued the liberal reform movement, the Prague Spring.

In 1967, he published his first novel “The Joke,” a scathing portrayal of the communist regime in Czechoslovakia.

In an interview with Le Monde in 1976, Kundera said calling his writing “political” obscures its true significance. However, there was no denying the political tone in his books.

His 1979 novel “The Book of Laughter and Forgetting” described how totalitarian regimes use their power to erase history and create an alternative one.

Likewise, “The Unbearable Lightness of Being,” published in 1984, is centered on the turbulent demise of the Prague Spring and the Czech people’s despair of being under the grip of totalitarianism.

The novel was later made into a film in 1988. Directed by Philip Kaufman, the film starred Oscar-winning actor Daniel Day-Lewis and was nominated for two Academy Awards.

After Czechoslovakia’s communist regime was peacefully overthrown in the 1989 Velvet Revolution, Kundera rarely made public visits in his home country, choosing instead to quietly visit family and friends.

Four years after moving to France, Kundera lost his Czech citizenship. But in 2019, the writer regained his citizenship while continuing to live in Paris.