Milan Kundera - Czech's legendary writer

4 min read    41 comments

The Czech Republic has its share of controversial writers (not to mention filmmakers - Hrabal, Kafka, and Milan Kundera, whose anti-Party stance tended to get him in trouble with the authorities, and his trouble with the ladies tended to get him labeled as a misogynist (hey, it worked for Hemmingway…). Kundera was an extremely private person and guarded his personal life, which he said was "nobody's business." Influenced by Czech structuralism, he thought that literary texts should be perceived on their own merits, without the interference of factors outside the book, like the author's personal life. Of course, it could be argued that it is impossible to have an objective biography, especially with a writer as dynamic as Kundera.


Kundera was born on 1 April 1929 in Brno, Czechoslovakia. His father was a Czech musicologist and pianist, and Kundera was taught music from a young age; later, musical themes would appear in most of his novels. He completed secondary school in Brno in 1948, then studied literature and aesthetics but soon switched to the Film Academy in Prague, which he graduated in 1952; that year, he was first appointed as a lecturer in world literature at the Film Academy.

Kundera tended to have a complicated relationship with the Communist Party. He belonged to group of young Czechs who didn't remember pre-war Czechoslovakia, and were mostly influenced by WWII and the German occupation, which propelled them towards Marxism and Party membership. He joined the Czechoslovak Communist Party in 1948, but then was expelled for "anti-party activities" in 1950, an event that would greatly influence him and later appeared in his thinly-veiled autobiographical novel The Joke; he re-joined in 1956 and was re-expelled in 1970. Afterwards, he was also expelled from the University, lived among workmen, played the trumpet in a jazz band and wrote poetry. He eventually became disillusioned with the communist system, and in a conference in 1967 called for freedom of writers, stressing the importance of preserving a separate Czech identity, which could only be done if Czech literature and culture are allowed to develop in complete freedom. Optimistic, no?

Kundera's first book came out in 1953 (Man, a Wide Garden - a collection of poetry); his poetry displayed a critique of "socialist realism," though still from a Marxist point of view. He tended to reject political propaganda as a theme and instead stressed the importance of natural, authentic human experience. Later, he began to write plays that were actually staged, in an attempt to humanize communism from within its own framework. Kundera eventually came to disown the first 30 years of his life, and the first thing he wrote of importance to him is the first story in the short story collection Laughable Loves, when his "life of a writer began."

After the Prague Spring in 1968, Kundera was dismissed from his teaching post at the Prague Film Academy, and his books were banned and withdrawn from bookshops and libraries. Paradoxically, after that he experienced the feeling of total freedom in writing, because he knew no censor would be reading his books. Thus in 1975 he emigrated to France with his wife, where he taught at the University of Rennes, moved to Paris in 1978, where he completed his masterpiece, The Unbearable Lightness of Being in 1982, which won him international recognition.

In The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Kundera presents the lack of values as lightness; necessity, weight, and value are three concepts inextricably bound: only necessity is heavy, and only what is heavy has value. Kundera's critique of human relationships is interlaced with his critique of the communist system, which obviously made him quite unpopular with the authorities at the time (luckily he was hiding away in France). Though largely philosophical and inevitably influenced by Kundera's surroundings and experiences in Prague and with the Czechoslovak Communist Party, Kundera's novels remain popular because they elevate the specific contexts and characters to the universal; the problems faced by characters in 1960s-70s Czechoslovakia are not really that different from the problems faced by us today. In fact, it can be argued that Kundera's novels are driven by exactly what drives most people - inter-human relationships, addictions, and sex.

Since the fall of communism, Kundera has adopted France as his home and rarely goes back to the Czech Republic, even switching to writing in French in 1995. Though works can be philosophical, Kundera himself is not a proponent of any specific school of thinking.


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Dennis Rohatyn
United States

Kundera did his best to be blasé about everything. In the end, things just got too heavy, even for him.

Reply Jul 12th, 2023

There are helpful comments about Kundera's work here.

Reply Jun 15th, 2022
Dilip Bose

I am Indian poet.I want tostsrt a research on modern czech literature. will yiu give me your personal email id to write you?

Reply Feb 5th, 2020
N S Reddy

As someone who has contacted Milan via his publishers / agent let me tell you that all film, theatre or such productions will be, are withheld, forbidden and rejected- the filming of Unbearable made sure of that, the answer is no.

Reply Apr 9th, 2019
Ashot Alexanian

I appreciate if someone can send me privately the email of Milan Kundera. Anyone out there who is able to help me contact him?

Reply Feb 21st, 2019
H Leis

I would like to do an interview with Milan Kundera for Metanoia Magazine. Anyone out there who is able to help me contact him?

Reply Jul 20th, 2018

Try his publishers....

Reply Jan 21st, 2019
John Holan
Czech Republic

We have pictures of him in our family photo album

Reply Jan 20th, 2018
Mariano Sanchez

Do you know him personnally? Or do you know a way to contact him?

Reply May 26th, 2018
Milan Kundera

Perhaps I can help.

Reply May 28th, 2018
corey sun

Dear Mr. Kundera, this is Corey Sun from CKF Pictures. We are a Chinese film production company base in Beijing, we are interested in adapting one of your short novel to film. Please let me know the best to get a hold to you, my email is thanks.

Reply Feb 12th, 2019
David Kelso
United States

Regarding "Festival of Insignificance," not all navels are alike.

Reply Jul 30th, 2016
United Kingdom

Any success with getting his mail? I really need it as well

Reply Sep 18th, 2015
Czech Republic

I need milan kundera's email address.I researched but I didnt find anywhere..we are as a theatre gruop prepearing his theatre game(owner of keys) and we need to talk with him about his theatre game...if u have and send me or information about how can I reach him,i will be happy,thank you for everything now... reviewed by osman from Turkey on Feb.16.2012 To OSMAN: I was last year with my theatre group in same situation: problem is, that Kundera prohibited to play and publish this drama for ever, about 40 years ago...If anyone will perform it,it is breaking the law.

Reply Jun 24th, 2014

Hey I know it’s been long time since you commented here but i’m looking for a way to contact Milan Kundera directly. So if you have any info that could remotely help me it would be really appreciated!!

Reply May 4th, 2018

Any luck? I'm surprised that there's anyone still interested in him in 2018, but I'm one of them

Reply May 14th, 2018
Czech Republic

It is very pleasant to know that so much people like M.K. so much, that have desire to meet him... But, is unfortunately impossible to meet everyone that is important (thinker) for us - mainly they are dead (Platon, Heidegger...Sofokles). But it will be interesting to meet other people with same taste for literature. M. K. is so special thinker, that everyone who truly understand his work, have to be interesting for others in same attitude. We should meet each other, not whimper, that M. K. do not want to meet us.

Reply Jun 24th, 2014
Czech Republic

He is just another bloody communist from fifties and he will never change and never be something else. He never appologised to victims of bolshevism and he should do it morning, noon and evening. Bolshevics have no moral at all and they never change. He never denounced his bolshevic colleague Havel. Another criminal without any moral able just to lie, hide and steal. Those people without moral make this world such an ugly place. Should be legal to shoot them.

Reply Nov 13th, 2012
United States

An excellent piece showcasing this writer, Milan Kundera has beautifully strung into words the thoughts I have felt deep in my heart my entire life. I have been touched by several of his novels and plan on eventually owning all of them. It is partially because of him that I have taken such an interest in the history/philosophy of the difference between the ideals of the Eastern and Western world, and as a matter of fact I am now spending an exchange year abroad in Poland because of this interest. I only hope some day I can meet this wonderful man.

Reply May 14th, 2012

I need milan kundera's email address.I researched but I didnt find anywhere..we are as a theatre gruop prepearing his theatre game(owner of keys) and we need to talk with him about his theatre game...if u have and send me or information about how can I reach him,i will be happy,thank you for everything now...

Reply Feb 16th, 2012

I would appreciate to find a way to write or relate my thoughts to Mr Kundera. I am eighteen and i need to be enlightened on what seems to be a persistent weariness in my life. Any email adresses, web pages or forums are needed. Thank you.

Reply Nov 27th, 2011

I read my first Kundera book when I was 16 (I'm 31 now) and have read most of them, not all of them, taking it slow, as you do with gurmant food trying to enjoy it as long as you can. I was thrilled when it appearded in my curriculum a few years ago, I thought it would be the best time ever talking about his novels in class. But it was terrible, at least for me, for I realized, it was so personal for me. Every time, every age it talked to me and answered exactly what I was curious about at the time. To react to Anna's (from Kazasthan) comment: I don't think he writes about how things should be, I think he writes about how they are, capturing men's and women's conscious and subconscious motivation, drives and the deepest sense of their personality One of the things that thrills me was how well he understands (the soul of)women. I have not read Kundera for some time now, but yesterday I had a dream that I was going to have dinner with him. Talking about subconscious.. hahaha Keep on, Mr. Kundera

Reply Jun 13th, 2011

My mother lived in the same apartment building as him in Paris for a while in the eighties. Maybe he still lives there...

Reply Oct 18th, 2010

I am traveling to Paris soon. Can you share where this apartment is?

Reply Dec 18th, 2015
Mariano Sanchez

Could you tell me where is that, please?

Reply May 26th, 2018
Czech Republic

Hello. Did any of you manage to get his e-mail or his home address please? It would mean the world to me. Thank you!!!!

Reply Nov 18th, 2018

So with great pleasure I threw away books of Mr.Kundera! In his books he mixed politics and love, he athorised libral love without any sens of reponsability, unrespect and true love.And People using it as bible in their life. So my husband activle was using comments from his book that athorised him to unrespect and cheat his wife publically. He told her that she is Tereza and he is loving her... ! So my husband decided to be dk. Thomas playing politic, having thousand lovers and coming back home to nice Tereza, our life was exactly like in this roman. But the end hopefully is not the same:) M. Kundera you forgot about value of FAMILY ! I think people who decided to write books in same time have to realise their reponsability and influence of their literature. For example: author A. Blok - im loving to read him, however his roman "Lolita" is a best book for pedos ... So Mr. Kundera please stop to play a God ! cepedant je dois vous pardoner! Anna - girl from Kazakhstan and Poland actually living in Lyon.

Reply Sep 7th, 2010
United States

I just wanted to say to Kundera, that I read every sentence you write in your novels. All of them. I just thought you should know there are readers out here like me.

Reply Jul 19th, 2010
Olga M, Kolchik

Kundera, since I read your books I know that it will be a magic travel with you. I love all the books that I found from you, your passionate characters and the melancolic recollections. I am not exaggerated, you were a turning point in my life. Thank you for teaching ourselves to open our eyes or, at least, to know of your storytales. With love Olga MK

Reply Jul 14th, 2010
Antonio Praiz

Mr. Kundera, i just want to tell how important was your novel for me, the unbearable lightness of being represents many ideas about life and "love" that i share, i'm a medicine student living in mexico, i don't know if you will read this message, but for me is very importan to tell you the way your work chance my way of thinking, i hope you health and joy, i know it's very difficult to know you, but i would to know you read this. Thank you so much for writing the unbearable lightness of being

Reply Jun 13th, 2010
United States

I appreciate if someone can send me privately the email of Milan Kundera. I want to ask him for a favor. I know he is a busy person, but this is something important. At least for me. I live in California. US.

Reply May 28th, 2010


Reply Feb 9th, 2010
Dilshan Boange
Sri Lanka

Mr.Kundera is surely a literary legend of our times who will mark the age of modernist writing as we know it. His narrtive modes can inspire a whole new approach to story telling. His theorem of "Litost" in 'The Book of Laughter and Forgetting' is priceless in understanding emotion-politics that we all present and perform in the larger landscape of state-politics.He is truly a prodigy.

Reply Dec 17th, 2008

I teach literature in Mexico. My high school students have loved "The Unbearable Lightness of Being". I just want to say that Sabina's longing of the two lighted windows has haunted me always as well as her despair. Thomas, Teresa and Sabina are some of the most memorable characters of all times. To have a bunch of mexican 17 year olds thinking this is their favorite novel of all times is the best reward an author could have.

Reply Apr 30th, 2008
Bosnia And Herzegovina

Tatyana, i absolutely agree with you and your thoughts. Kundra for president...

Reply Apr 7th, 2008
United States

Dear Mr. Kundera- I do not know if this message ever will reach you, but I want to express my total admiration of your life and your work! You are a great writer and philosopher of our time! I have read some of your books and my project is to read them all, you never repeat, you are always different, full of great stories and great thoughts! I am Russian, came to the USA 14 years ago, many of events in your personal life and my life are the same, I share most of your thoughts about life in the Soviet Union and other socialist countries. One more time I would like to say how much I enjoy reading your books, how much pleasure I have reading your book,especially Immortality-how brilliant it is! Thanks again and I wish you a great health and many new novels and essays. And of course I would like to meet you and shake your hand with all gratitude!

Reply Apr 3rd, 2008
United States

What city in France does Milan Kundera live in? I have read and reread all his works and would love to meet him...a previous post says that his favorite cafe is by the castle....what castle is that? Maybe I could be lucky enough to bump into him....

Reply Mar 12th, 2008

Love his books... would love to meet him. My favourite is Immortality. anybody know how to get in touch with Milan Kundera? Please email me privately... thanks.

Reply Dec 9th, 2007
Johnny Dimas
United States

"Since the fall of communism, Kundera has adopted France as his home and rarely goes back to Czechoslovakia..." This might be because Czechoslovakia has seized to exist since 1993. Perhaps this should read Czech Republic.

Reply Apr 23rd, 2007
United States

Kundera is a very private man, so probably your best bet would be to wander about the city as much as possible cos you won't track him down otherwise. I heard one of his favorite cafes is right by the castle.

Reply Feb 21st, 2007
Martin Madera
Czech Republic

i just like the idea of meeting Milan Kundera accidentally somewhere in subway or anywhere else, as it is quite impossible to meet him by appointment, i think....he has no web page, no contact, you can just contact his publisher (Gallimard, for example.....). Any other idea? I am very interested....

Reply Feb 16th, 2007