Kundera was born in 1929 into a highly cultured, middle class family. His father, Ludv?k Kundera (1891-1971), once a pupil of the composer Leoš Jan?ček, was an important Czech musicologist and pianist who served as the head of the Jan?ček Music Academy in Brno from 1948 to 1961. Milan learned to play the piano from his father, later going on to study musicology and musical composition. Musicological influences and references can be found throughout his work; he has even gone so far as including notes in the text to make a point.
Kundera completed his secondary school studies in Brno in 1948. He studied literature and aesthetics at the Faculty of Arts at Charles University in Prague. After two terms, he transferred to the Film Faculty of the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague, where he first attended lectures in film direction and script writing. In 1950, his studies were briefly interrupted by political interference. After graduating in 1952, the Film Faculty appointed him a lecturer in world literature. Kundera belonged to the generation of young Czechs who had had little or no experience of the prewar democratic Czechoslovak Republic. Their ideology was greatly influenced by the experiences of World War II and the German occupation. Still in his teens, Kundera joined the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia which seized power in 1948. In 1950, he and another writer, Jan Trefulka, were expelled from the party for "anti-party activities".
Trefulka described the incident in his novella Pršelo jim štěst? (Happiness Rained On Them, 1962). Kundera also used the incident as an inspiration for the main theme of his novel Žert (The Joke, 1967). In 1956 Milan Kundera was readmitted into the Party. He was expelled for the second time in 1970. Kundera, along with other Czech artists and writers such as V?clav Havel, was involved in the 1968 Prague Spring. This brief period of reformist activities was crushed by the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in August of 1968.
Kundera remained committed to reforming Czech communism, and argued vehemently in print with Havel, saying, essentially, that everyone should remain calm and that "nobody is being locked up for his opinions yet," and "the significance of the Prague Autumn may ultimately be greater than that of the Prague Spring." Finally, however, Kundera relinquished his reformist dreams and moved to France in 1975. He has been a French citizen since 1981.
- Žert (1967) [Eng: The Joke]
- Směšn? l?sky (1969) [Eng: Laughable Loves]
- Valč?k na rozloučenou (1972) [Eng: The Farewell Waltz]
- Život je jinde (1973) [Eng: Life Is Elsewhere]
- Kniha sm?chu a zapomněn? (1978) [Eng: The Book of Laughter and Forgetting]
- Nesnesiteln? lehkost byt? (1984) [Eng: The Unbearable Lightness of Being]
- Nesmrtelnost (1990) [Eng: Immortality]
- La Lenteur (1993) [Eng: Slowness]
- L'Identit? (1998) [Eng: Identity]
- L'Ignorance (2000) [Eng: Ignorance]
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