Milan Kundera: four best nonfiction books to explore

Milan Kundera: four best nonfiction books to explore

by Suswati Basu
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Milan Kundera, a renowned Czech-born French writer known for his seminal work ‘The Unbearable Lightness of Being‘, has died at the age of 94. He was known for his novels, essays, and plays.

The Czech Ministry of Culture and Prime Minister Petr Fiala confirmed his death, who said the existential writer died July 11, 2023 in Paris, according to the Moravian State Library in his hometown of Brno. 

Most of Kundera’s work is characterised by his philosophical insights and his deep exploration of human nature, politics, and history. He is perhaps best known for his aforementioned novel “The Unbearable Lightness of Being,” which was published in 1984 and has been translated into numerous languages worldwide.

Milan Kundera in black and white circa 1980
Milan Kundera, 1980. Credit: Elisa Cabot.

Who was Milan Kundera?

Milan Kundera was a Czech-born French writer. He was born on April 1, 1929, in Brno, Czechoslovakia (now the Czech Republic). Kundera studied musicology and composition at the Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts in Prague, and he began teaching literature there in 1952.

Kundera's first novel, The Joke, was published in 1967. The novel was banned by the Communist government in Czechoslovakia, and Kundera was expelled from the Communist Party. He left Czechoslovakia in 1975 and settled in France, where he became a French citizen in 1981.

Kundera's best-known works include The Joke, The Book of Laughter and Forgetting, The Unbearable Lightness of Being, and Immortality. His novels are known for their exploration of themes such as love, sex, memory, and the meaning of life. Kundera's work has been translated into more than 40 languages, and he has won numerous awards, including the Jerusalem Prize for the Freedom of the Individual in Society, the Common Wealth Award of Distinguished Service for Outstanding Achievement in Literature, and the Prix mondial Cino Del Duca.

Kundera died on July 11, 2023, at the age of 94. He is considered one of the most important writers of the 20th century.

Here are some of the key works of Milan Kundera:

* The Joke (1967)
* The Book of Laughter and Forgetting (1979)
* The Unbearable Lightness of Being (1984)
* Immortality (1990)
* Slowness (1996)
* Identity (2006)
* The Festival of Insignificance (2014)

Kundera's work has been praised for its intelligence, wit, and insights into the human condition. He is a master of the comic novel, and his work often explores the absurdities of life. Kundera is also a gifted essayist, and his non-fiction writing is as insightful as his fiction.

Kundera's work has been controversial, and some critics have accused him of being apolitical and out of touch with the realities of the world. However, Kundera's fans argue that his work is deeply political, and that his novels offer a unique perspective on the human condition.

Kundera is a significant figure in 20th-century literature, and his work continues to be read and studied by readers around the world.

Best nonfiction books by author:

In terms of nonfiction, Kundera is known for his critical essays. Here are some of his nonfiction works:

  1. “The Art of the Novel” (L’art du roman, 1986). This book is a collection of essays in which Kundera expounds on the European novel, drawing on examples from Cervantes to Kafka to Hermann Broch.
  2. “Testaments Betrayed: An Essay in Nine Parts” (Les testaments trahis, 1993). This book is a critique of the ways in which Western culture has misread and misinterpreted the works of important writers and composers.
  3. “The Curtain: An Essay in Seven Parts” (Le Rideau, 2005). In this book, Kundera discusses the history of the novel and his views on the nature of novel-writing, examining works from authors such as Rabelais, Cervantes, Sterne, Diderot, Flaubert, Tolstoy, and Musil.
  4. “Encounter” (Une rencontre, 2009). This collection of essays showcases Kundera’s reflections on art, personal experiences, and other authors’ works.
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It’s important to note that while Kundera is best known for his novels, his nonfiction work is equally influential and displays his deep understanding of the craft of writing and the cultural context in which literature is produced and interpreted.

Read: Martin Amis: five best nonfiction books to explore

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