Milan Kundera (1929–2023), ‘The Unbearable Lightness’ of Being author

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Milan Kundera

By Linnea Crowther July 12, 2023

Milan Kundera was a Czech-French writer best known for writing the 1984 novel “The Unbearable Lightness of Being.”

Milan Kundera’s legacy

Set in the 1968 Prague Spring, a period of mass protest and reforms in Czechoslovakia, “The Unbearable Lightness of Being” explores the lives of artists and intellectuals during the time of upheaval. A Communist Party member who advocated for party reform, Kundera himself was involved in the protests of Prague Spring. As pressure increased on reformists like Kundera, he fled the country for France in 1975. His other novels include his debut, “The Joke” (1967); “The Book of Laughter and Forgetting” (1979); and “Slowness” (1995), his first novel to be published in French. Kundera also wrote plays, poetry, and nonfiction.

“The Unbearable Lightness of Being” was adapted into a 1988 film starring Daniel Day-Lewis, Juliette Binoche, and Lena Olin. Kundera was a consultant to the film’s production, including writing new materials specifically for the film. The critically acclaimed film earned an Oscar nomination for its screenplay, but Kundera was ultimately unhappy with the departures it took from his novel. He later said he would no longer allow his work to be adapted for the screen after his experience with the film.

Notable quote

“A novel that does not uncover a hitherto unknown segment of existence is immoral. Knowledge is the only morality.” —as quoted in the New York Review of Books, 1984

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