Library of Milan Kundera Opens in Brno’s Moravian Library

The author’s library is housed in the Moravian Library on Kounicova. Photo credit: ZM / Brno Daily. 

Brno, April 1 (CTK) – The Library of Milan Kundera, the famous Czech exile writer living in France, opened in the Moravian Library (MZK) in Brno yesterday, on the occasion of his 94th birthday, housing the collection that he and his wife donated to his native town.

It includes more than 3,000 copies of various editions of Kundera’s books and his archive of articles and other documents, including his correspondence. The gift was transported from France to Brno last year.

On the occasion of the opening, Culture Minister Martin Baxa (ODS) read out a letter from Kundera’s wife Vera describing her feelings about the library’s move from Paris to Brno. Her husband, she said, was returning to his hometown, of which he had been thinking with nostalgia during his time in France.

Kundera emigrated in 1975, leaving Czechoslovakia for Paris. He was stripped of his Czechoslovak citizenship by the Communist regime four years later, and it was only restored in 2019. It is thanks to Kundera’s wife that the library could be established in Brno.

“She is not only the author of this great idea, but she also put the whole project together and helped prepare the transport with extraordinary diligence and commitment,” said MZK director Tomas Kubicek.

According to Kubicek, the biggest complications were caused by the COVID-19 epidemic and various associated restrictions, which delayed the opening of the Kundera Library for a long time.

Kubicek also said he did not expect the Kundera couple to visit Brno soon, due to their health and the long distance.

MZK has extended the donation from the writer with additional copies of Kundera’s texts as well as texts that study his work. Thanks to a contract with the Kundera couple and the copyright administrators, the collection will be further enriched by new editions of Kundera’s books.

Readers and scholars will be able to borrow books from the library. Documentary material will be gradually scanned to enable it to be studied in electronic form. The library will also have computers with audio versions of Kundera’s works in Czech, French, English and German. Additional computers will make it possible to study the digitised works, such as the copies with author’s proofreading.

The archive material, which includes correspondence with film directors Federico Fellini and Francois Truffaut and playwright, artist and film-maker Fernando Arrabal, as well as photographs and various awards, will also be digitised with time.

Moreover, the Milan Kundera Library is to serve as a meeting place offering a cultural program, focusing on literary and social themes. It will be set by the program council of the Milan Kundera Library, comprising prominent personalities of European literary and cultural life. The library will be open from 10am to 5pm on weekdays.

Born in Brno in 1929, Kundera has been living in France since 1975. He made his mark as a writer not only in the former Czechoslovakia with The Joke (Zert, 1967), but also as an emigre, with novels such as The Unbearable Lightness of Being (Nesnesitelna lehkost byti, 1984) and Immortality (Nesmrtelnost, 1990). His works were banned by the Communist regime in Czechoslovakia.

After he published his novel The Book of Laughter and Forgetting (Kniha smichu a zapomneni, 1978), in which he described Communist leader Gustav Husak as the “president of forgetting,” Kundera was stripped of Czechoslovak citizenship. He was granted French citizenship two years later, and his Czech citizenship was restored in 2019. Kundera wrote his novels in French in recent decades.

Some of the events from Kundera’s life have not been clarified yet, since the writer does not give interviews and keeps silent about his past. This is also why the recent new literary biography “Kundera: The Czech Life and Times” by Jan Novak, published in 2020, drew high attention in the Czech Republic and provoked controversial reactions, as its author is quite critical of the famous exile writer.

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