One Tonne of Books Transported To Brno From Milan Kundera’s Paris Flat
Kundera’s personal library, which he kept with him until his last moments, has been reunited with the rest of his collection in Brno. Credit: MZK.
Brno, Aug 28 (CTK) – Almost a tonne of books were transported from the Paris apartment of the late Czech writer Milan Kundera, who died in France on 11 July aged 94, to the Moravian Library (MZK) in Brno, Kundera’s hometown, over the weekend, MZK director Tomas Kubicek told CTK yesterday.
Part of the writer’s archive and translations of his books into many world languages had already been sent to Brno. Now, his personal library, which Kundera kept with him until his last moments, has been reunited with the rest in Brno.
“These are books he read, books he wanted to keep with him, books he was inspired by. There are his notes, comments, marked passages in many of them. You can see that a number of these books are linked to his essays or novels,” Kubicek said.
A separate Milan Kundera Library has been established as part of MZK on Kounicova, to which books and documents from the writer’s collection are gradually being added. The library staff arranged the transfer with Kundera and his wife before he died.
Part of the agreement was that Kundera would keep his personal library as long as he could read. A few weeks after Kundera’s death, his widow Vera gave instructions for the books to be transferred to Brno.
“It was very painful for Mrs. Kunderova because of course these are the things that surrounded her and that connected her with Milan Kundera,” Kubicek noted.
The library staff have not yet gone through and counted the books, but they know they weighed 980 kilos in total. “The estimate is about 50 metres of books and magazines,” Kubicek added.
Kubicek also said he had been first interested in a French-language book of essays by Max Brod, for example, in which Kundera had written a number of notes, apparently as a basis for his criticism of Brod’s approach to publishing the works of Prague-born writer Franz Kafka. Brod disobeyed his friend Kafka’s wishes to destroy his work, and instead edited and published some of Kafka’s novels and short stories posthumously.
Only small items now remain in Paris to be transported to Brno. “Vera Kunderova, for example, would like the collection to include gramophone records as well,” Kubicek said.
The Milan Kundera Library attracts tourists and researchers to Brno, he noted.
Most recently, a visit by French actor Gerard Depardieu, who was an admirer of Russian President Vladimir Putin before the Russian invasion of Ukraine and who now faces sexual violence charges in France, which he denies, drew a lot of attention. Kubicek refused to comment on the actor’s visit to Brno. However, he recalled that Depardieu and Kundera had been friends since the 1980s.
“It is important to us that people come to study Kundera’s work,” Kubicek said.
Kundera, born in Brno in 1929, was one of the most important Czech authors of the past century. His most famous works include novels The Joke (1967), The Unbearable Lightness of Being (1984) and Immortality (1990), as well as collections of long short stories including Laughable Loves (1963-1969). He wrote his later works from the 1980s in French. Kundera’s texts have been published in 54 languages in more than 3,000 editions.
Kundera was a prominent figure of the political reform efforts of the 1960s and was also one of those banned from publishing their works after the Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia in August 1968. After emigrating to France in 1975, he became one of the major authors of the Gallimard publishing house in Paris. His works were also published in Czech by the exiled ’68 Publishers run by the Skvorecky couple, seated in Toronto, Canada.
After he published the novel The Book of Laughter and Forgetting (1978), in which the Communist leader Gustav Husak was described as the “president of forgetting”, Kundera was stripped of his Czechoslovak citizenship in 1979. He was granted French citizenship two years later, and his Czech citizenship was only restored in 2019. The author, who received many literary awards, visited Czechoslovakia and then the Czech Republic several times after the November 1989 collapse of the Communist regime, but still lived with his wife Vera in Paris, where he died in July.