Kundera biography hype in the Czech Republic

Czech author Milan Kundera has lived in Paris for decades, writes only in French and does not authorise Czech translations of his works. Nevertheless, the first major biography about him has now appeared in the Czech Republic. The 900-page work by Jan Novák, which maintains that Kundera had close ties to the communist authorities, meets with little enthusiasm in commentaries.

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Hospodářské noviny (CZ) /

Excitement sells well

Hospodářské noviny criticises a lack of respect for Kundera on Novák's part:

“There are few real-world personalities that we Czechs can be proud of. No wonder, we're only a small nation. When we have someone like that we can't get enough of holding them under the magnifying glass. But who wants to reach an advanced age only to find out that they were an immoral person who led a reprehensible life? ... Writing biographies is a difficult task, especially if they aren't authorised and are published while the person concerned is still alive. On the other hand, writing is also a business. And the more excitement a book causes, the better for the author. What is to be doubted, however, is that this is good for the rest of us.”

Seznam Zprávy (CZ) /

The Kundera phenomenon remains unexplained

Novák is trying to destroy the myths surrounding Kundera, Seznam Zprávy believes:

“Jan Novák doesn't like Milan Kundera. You can tell that from the very first page of his book. He writes about him as if he wanted to catch him in the act and say: See? He really was like that. At the same time, the book paints an impressive picture of the relationship between the powerful and the intellectuals in the old days of communism. ... It's reminiscent of the literary genre 'secrets of the famous', which always sells well. ... Nonetheless Novák's work doesn't give the impression that it is driven by ill will towards Kundera. He shows much appreciation for the author's writing style. But he doesn't explain what lies behind Kundera's international fame and popularity. Or why many read him again and again.”