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Milan Kundera: The Irish Times’ Global Citizen

Czech-French author Milan Kundera, renowned for his romance novel “The Unbearable Lightness of Being” published in 1984, passed away on July 11 at the age of 94. Among the bookmakers’ predictions, few authors of his generation appeared as frequently as he did. However, Sabina, a character from his novel, protests that her “enemy is kitsch, not Communism!” Mr. Kundera, who died at the age of 94 on July 11, transitioned from fervent youthful socialism to global recognition as an exiled author who meticulously examined and criticized the follies and cruelties of the Soviet satellite regime that governed his homeland until 1989. Milan Kundera: The Irish Times’ Global Citizen.

His formally inventive works transcended a divided Europe, and following the fall of the Iron Curtain, their captivating blend of philosophy, politics, and eros inspired countless backpacking trips to Prague. The announcement of his passing was made by Anna Mrazova, a representative from the Milan Kundera Library, who shared that the author died in his Paris apartment after a long illness. Milan Kundera: The Irish Times’ Global Citizen.

The Irish Times Perspective on Milan Kundera: A Global Nomad

The novels he wrote after his exile to France, notably “The Book of Laughter and Forgetting” from 1979 and “The Unbearable Lightness of Being” from 1982, will forever satisfy those who appreciate anthracite-black wit interwoven with philosophical fiction. However, he consistently emphasized the supremacy of art over any ideology and championed the role of the novelist in an era “befogged with ideas and indifferent to works.” The allure of a Kundera novel for American readers, I suspect, often stemmed from a sort of political voyeurism.

Milan Kundera: The Irish Times' Global Citizen

Kundera famously left his homeland, Czechoslovakia, in 1975 and went into exile in France after being expelled from the Czechoslovakian Communist party for his “anti-communist activities.” His books indulge in a strain of abstract thinking that has rarely been in vogue in Anglophone literary circles. For Mr. Kundera, kitsch was the deadly enemy of truthful art—an indulgence in narcissistic sentimentality that, regardless of the social system, obliterates realities and encourages people to “gaze into the mirror of the beautifying lie.”

Milan Kundera through The Irish Times Lens: A Cosmopolitan Figure

As a college student in the late 1990s, I not only identified with the protagonist of “The Unbearable Lightness,” Tomas, a surgeon who critiques the ruling party, loses his job, and ends up washing windows for a living—I aspired to be him. This sentiment arose after Kundera unveiled his debut novel, “The Joke,” in 1967. There was also a sense of enjoyment that, according to the author himself, clashed with his adopted literary community.

With caustic irony, mordant wit, and acrobatic literary skill, Kundera mocked the beautifying lie wherever he encountered it—in politics, culture, or personal relationships. Observing from a safe distance, his status as a victim of totalitarian oppression was almost enviable, not to mention that the window-washing job brought the doctor into regular contact with lonely housewives. His work captivated readers with its incisive critique of the Czechoslovak Communist regime.

Milan Kundera in The Irish Times’ Eyes: A Citizen of the World

“But it is entertainment!” he told the Paris Review in 1984. “I don’t understand the contempt that the French have for entertainment, why they are so ashamed of the word ‘divertissement.'” Before and after the collapse of the Soviet bloc, Mr. Kundera became one of the world’s most renowned critics of abstract idealism, which can lead to tyranny. Through agile, fragmentary, essay-like fictions, he took aim at the belief in history as a progressive “Grand March” toward “brotherhood, equality, justice, happiness.”

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