Biography of Milan Kundera

Milan Kundera was born on April 1st, 1929 in Brno, Bohemia, now Czechoslovakia.Brno, Palais Dietrich  His father, Ludvík Kundera (1891-1971), was a musicologist and rector at Brno University.  Milan Kundera wrote his first poems during high school. After World War II, he worked as a tradesman and a jazz musician before beginning his studiesMilan Kundera at Prague’s Charles University where he studied musicology, film and literature and aesthetics.  After graduating in 1952, Kundera became assistant and later professor with the film faculty at Prague’s Academy of Performing Arts, lecturing in world literature.  During this time, he published poems, essays and stage plays and joined the editorial staff at the literary magazines “Literarni Noviny” and “Listy.”  Kundera joined the communist party in 1948 full of enthusiasm, as did so many intellectuals.  In 1950, he got expelled from the party due to individualistic tendencies but rejoined from 1956 to 1970.  Throughout the 50s, Kundera worked as a translator, essayist and author of stage plays and, in 1953, he published his first book.Prag, Wenzelsplatz  Although Kundera had published several poetry collections, he gained notoriety with the publication of a collection of short stories entitled “Laughable Loves“, written between 1958 and 1968.  His first novel, “The Joke,“ written in 1967, deals with Stalinism.  After the Soviet invasion on the 21st of August, 1968, Kundera, as one of the leading figures of the failed radical movement the “Prague Spring,” lost his teaching position and his books were banned from libraries the country over.  In 1970, his books were banned from publication.  His second novel, “Life Is Elsewhere”, was published in Paris in 1973. Rennes, Bretagne In 1975, Kundera became guest professor at the University in Rennes in Bretagne, France.  He was deprived of Czechoslovakian citizenship in 1979 in reaction to his “Book of Laughter and Forgetting.”  The novels that followed were banned from publication in the CSSR.  He gained his French citizenship in 1981.  Since 1985, Kundera has given only written interviews, feeling himself often misquoted.  In 1986, Kundera published his first work written in French, the essay “L'Art du Roman“ (The Art of the Novel).  In 1988, he published his first novel written in French, “Immortality.”  Having been a lecture in comparative language sciences at the University of Rennes for several years, in 1978 Kundera became an author with the noted publishing house Gallimard.  In his in 1994 essay “Testaments Trahis” (Testaments Betrayed), Kundera addressed adulterators, interpreters and translators by whom he felt his work was often mistreated.  He allowed the translation of his works again in Germany while, in France, he personally oversaw the Czech transcription of all his works.  Kunderas most recent novels include “Slowness,” published in 1994, and  “Identity,” published in 1998.  In 2000, Kundera published “La Ignorancia,” up until now only published in Spanish.  Publication in other languages is forthcoming.  As he often makes clear, Kundera derives inspirations from the Renaissance and such writers as Boccacio, Rabelais, Sterne, Diderot, but also from the works of Musil, Gombrowitz, Broch, Kafka and Heidegger.  Not only are Kunderas books classics of the 20th century, Kundera is among it’s greatest novelists.  Unlike many more public authors, Kundera prefers to disappear behind his books, anonymous in his own way.  Kundera currently lives with his wife, Vera Hrabankova, in Paris.


Prizes and AwardsMilan Kundera

1964 States prize of the CSSR

1968 Prize of the authors confederation of the CSSR

1973 Prix Médicis for the best foreign novel published in France (“Life is Elsewhere")

1978 Premio letterario Mondello for his book “The Farewell Party” in Italy

1981 American Common Wealth Award for his complete works

1982 European literatur prize

1983 Doctor honoris causa of the University of Michigan, USA

1985 Prize of Jerusalem

1987 Crititians prize of the Académie Francaise for his book "The Art of the Novel"

1987 Nelly-Sachs-Preis

1987 Austrian states prize for European literature

1990 Knight of the Légion Étrangčre (France)

1991 First prize for foreign literature of the English newspaper The Independent

1994 Jaroslav-Seifert-Prize for his novel „Immortality"

1995 Czech medal of merits for his contribution to the renewal of democracy

2000 Herder-Preis of the University of Vienna / Austria







Zur deutschen Seite!


You are in the English Version!