Milan Kundera

Second paper, final draft due.

Milan Kundera (born 1929), Czechoslovakia and France

Kundera is probably the best-known Czech writer in the world today, although he now evidently writes in French rather than in Czech. After studying first art and then film he taught World Literature in Prague for several years but was “banned” after the Soviet occupation in 1969 (a topic raised in The Unbearable Lightness of Being). He left Czechoslovakia for France, eventually taking up residence in Paris; his Czechoslovak citizenship was revoked in 1979. He has published a great deal of lyric and long poetry and several plays, but he is best known in the West for his novels, beginning with Žert (The Joke) in 1967. His prose is marked by an interest in humiliation, eroticism, and always potentially ironic narrative philosophizing and (professorial!) pontification.

The Unbearable Lightness of Being was a big literary hit in the West and was made into a successful film (1988). Please note that Kundera’s last name (like all Czech words) should be pronounced with the stress on the first syllable.

The Unbearable Lightness of Being was translated by Michael Henry Heim.

Questions for reading:

Other books by Kundera:

Works about Kundera:

You might want to compare Kundera’s novel to Josef Škvorecký's The Engineer of Human Souls: An Entertainment on the Old Themes of Life, Women, Fate, Dreams, the Working Class, Secret Agents, Love, and Death (fetchingly titled!) or any of Škvorecký’s many other books in Tripod, or works by the famous dissident and later politician Vacláv Havel. A different but also interesting comparison would be Bohumil Hrabal's I Served the King of England. Safe Conduct: Photographs by Paul Ickovic might make for interesting compariso with the imaginary photographic opus of Tereza.