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.
The Book of Laughter and Forgetting by the Czech-born writer Milan Kundera has been published for the first time in the Czech Republic. It was the author’s last novel written in Czech that had not been available in his homeland before now. The only edition ever released in Czech previously was in 1981 by the exile publishing house Sixty-Eight Publishers.
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.
The Czech-born French writer Milan Kundera is to receive the Cino Del Duca World Prize for literature on Wednesday. The prize, which has been awarded annually since 1969 and includes a monetary award of 300,000 EUR, recognises scientific or literary authors whose work offers a message of modern humanism. Mr Kundera was born in the Czech town of Brno and emigrated to France in 1974, where he gained citizenship some years later. He will be the second Czech to receive the Cino Del Duca, the first being former Czech president Václav Havel in 1997.
The renowned Czech writer Milan Kundera is set to bring out a new collection of essays next week. In Une rencontre the author, best known for titles such as The Unbearable Lightness of Being, turns his attention to greats of world culture such as Francis Bacon, Dostoevsky and Rabelais. Kundera has been publishing in French since 1990, a decade and a half after he moved to Paris from Czechoslovakia. He turns 80 on April 1.