News has reached us today that author Milan Kundera, one of the most influential European authors of the twentieth century has died in Paris, aged 94.
Born in Czechoslovakia in 1929 to a middle class family, Milan Kundera grew up in a musical household, his father an important Czech musicologist he grew up an accomplished pianist in a politically volatile time. In his teens, he joined the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia, which seized power in 1948, completing his secondary school studies in the same year. He studied literature and aesthetics at the Faculty of Arts at Charles University in Prague but in 1950 his studies were interrupted when he was expelled from the Communist Party along with another writer Jan Trefulka. Kundera used the expulsion as an inspiration for the main theme of his novel Žert (The Joke) (1967).
After several years of political campaigning and turmoil, Kundera exiled to France in 1975 where he became a citizen and spent the rest of his life, until his death in Paris.
Like his life, Kundera’s early works have a pro-Communist leaning, but his later and best known works transcend ideological classification. The author himself always insisted he was a novelist rather than a political writer, and anyone who has read his works is likely to agree.
His novels are laced with philosophical digression and broad philosophical themes, and the best example of this is probably The Unbearable Lightness of Being, which was published in 1984, and chronicles the fragile nature of the individual and theorises on the insignificance of a single lifetime.
His final novel was released almost a decade ago, the 2014 novel The Festival of Insignificance, which focuses on a group of four friends and the existential predicaments of the modern world.
Milan Kundera died in Paris, on 11th July 2023.