World

Milan Kundera, Czech author of 'The Unbearable Lightness of Being,' dies at 94

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PARIS — Milan Kundera, whose dissident writings in communist Czechoslovakia transformed him into an exiled satirist of totalitarianism, has died in Paris at the age of 94, Czech media said Wednesday.


Kundera’s renowned novel, “The Unbearable Lightness of Being,” opens wrenchingly with Soviet tanks rolling through Prague, the Czech capital that was the author’s home until he moved to France in 1975. Weaving together themes of love and exile, politics and the deeply personal, Kundera’s novel won critical acclaim, earning him a wide readership among Westerners who embraced both his anti-Soviet subversion and the eroticism threaded through many of his works.


“If someone had told me as a boy: One day you will see your nation vanish from the world, I would have considered it nonsense, something I couldn’t possibly imagine. A man knows he is mortal, but he takes it for granted that his nation possesses a kind of eternal life,” he told the author Philip Roth in a New York Times interview in 1980, the year before he became a naturalized French citizen.


In 1989, the Velvet Revolution pushed Communists from power and Kundera’s nation was reborn as the Czech Republic, but by then he had made a new life — and a complete identity — in his attic apartment on Paris’ Left Bank.