A group of 30 writers, historians and Nobel laureates, including Czech-born
writer Milan Kundera, have signed a manifesto warning against the rise of
populism in Europe.
The manifesto, published in several newspapers, including The Guardian, says Europe is “coming apart before our eyes” and expresses concern in connection with Brexit and the upcoming European elections.
The authors warn that unless efforts are made to combat a rising tide of populism, the EU elections will be “the most calamitous that we have ever known” opening the way for “explosions of xenophobia and antisemitism”.
The 800-word manifesto was drafted by the French philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy. Its signatories include novelists Ian McEwan and Salman Rushdie, historian Simon Schama and the Nobel prize laureates Svetlana Alexievitch, Herta Müller, Orhan Pamuk and Elfriede Jelinek.
Prime Minister Andrej Babiš, who is on a three-day visit to France, on
Saturday met with the Czech-born writer Milan Kundera.
Babiš said on Facebook that he and his wife had spent an unforgettable three hours with the Kunderas and he had offered to arrange for Kudera to get back his Czech citizenship, of which he was stripped by the communist regime in the 1970s.
He said the writer‘s response had been non-committal, but he had high hopes of the Kunderas visiting the Czech Republic next year.
Milan Kundera, best known for his 1984 novel The Unbearable Lightness of Being, went into exile in France in 1975 and became a naturalised French citizen in 1981. He has not been in the Czech Republic for 22 years.
In his twenty years as editor-in-chief of the publishers Faber and Faber, Robert McCrum introduced some of the best Czech writers, including Václav Havel, Milan Kundera and Josef Škvorecký, to English speaking readers. This was in the days before the fall of communism and his visits to Czechoslovakia involved a cat-and-mouse game with the authorities. A few days ago Robert McCrum returned to the Czech Republic, to see how the country is faring on the eve of the fortieth anniversary of the Soviet-led invasion. He spoke to David Vaughan.
Czech-born novelist Milan Kundera’s second book Life is Elsewhere (1973) has been published for the first time in the Czech Republic. The news was confirmed by Jana Uhdeová of Atlantis publishers in Brno for the Czech News Agency. Life is Elsewhere came out in Czech only once before, in Canada in 1979 by 68 Publishers run by Josef Škvorecký and Zdena Salivarová. Kundera has written in French since the 1990s; his last novel that was written in Czech was Immortality.
Details have emerged from the KGB files smuggled out of Russia in 1992 by senior KGB official Vasili Mitrokhin, which Britain declassified last week. Some of the files relate to an operation code-named Progress in which 15 Russian agents were sent to Czechoslovakia in the spring of 1968 to undermine the Prague Spring pro-democracy movement. They targeted journalists from Czechoslovak radio and television, academics from Charles University, members of the Christian Democratic Party and writers such as Pavel Kohout and Milan Kundera. Operation Progress was launched by then KGB chief Jurii Andropov. The files can be viewed at Cambridge University.
This Tuesday sees Czech-born author Milan Kundera, who has lived and worked in France since the mid-1970s, turn 85. Although the Czech media has reported extensively on the occasion, it is no secret the author of acclaimed novels like The Joke and Immortality, has a complicated relationship with his homeland, not allowing novels after The Unbearable Lightness of Being to be published in Czech.
The writer Milan Kundera has been awarded the title of honorary citizen in the city of Brno, where he was born. The 50 members of the city council voted unanimously that the title, which is awarded every four years, should go to both the renowned novelist and to the late cardiologist Jan Navratil, who was the first to perform open heart surgery in Czechoslovakia. Brno mayor Roman Onderka said he would be bringing the award to France, as Mr Kundera’s health would not allow him to travel to Brno. Milan Kundera, whose works include “The Unbearable Lightness of Being” and “The Joke” among many others, was born in Brno in 1929 and has lived in France since he emigrated there in 1975.
Some of émigré author Milan Kundera’s critical work made its Czech debut in the country’s Senate on Tuesday, after the author translated several of his essays from French for a special debate. At the request of the debate’s organizers, the 80-year-old author translated some excerpts from his works L’Art du roman especially for the occasion. Mr Kundera is known to have a sometimes strained relationship with his homeland and many of his more recent works have yet to appear in Czech. At the ‘European Milan Kundera’ Seminar, which started at the Czech Senate on Tuesday, those present discussed the way in which the world-famous novelist’s texts depicted Europe as a cultural and political entity.