Prague, Czech Republic- World-renowned Czech writer Milan Kundera has been designated as this year’s laureate of the Franz Kafka Prize, one of the most prestigious literary awards in the Czech Republic.
According to Vladimir Zelezny, chairman of the Franz Kafka Society, the works of the 91-year-old novelist made an “extraordinary contribution to Czech culture”.
Zelezny further declared that Milan Kundera, who has been living in France for more than 40 years and was reached by phone, said he was honoured to receive the prize and “joyfully” accepted the award, highlighting his deep admiration for Kafka.
The award-giving ceremony is due to be held in Prague at the end of October. Milan Kundera will become the sixth Czech author and third French citizen to receive the award after Yves Bonnefoy in 2007 and Pierre Michon last year.
Organized by the Franz Kafka Society and the city of Prague, the 10,000$ Franz Kafka Prize is awarded every year based on the selection of an international jury. Past recipients include Ivan Klima (2002), Haruki Murakami (2006), Vaclav Havel (2010) and Margaret Atwood (2017).
The Czechoslovak-born novelist’s relationship with his native country has long been notoriously stormy, fuelled by unverified allegations that the writer had collaborated with the StB secret police, and worsened by what some perceive as the author’s rejection of his home country in favour of his adoptive France.
Expelled from Czechoslovakia’s communist party in 1950 and gradually blacklisted by the regime, Kundera fled to France in 1975 and became a French citizen six years later.
His 1988 novel Immortality was the last book he wrote in Czech. The Paris resident has been publishing directly in French ever since, and blocked the Czech translation of his books for nearly three decades. Reports earlier this month noted that Kundera had finally given the green-light for his last novella, The Festival of Insignificance, to be translated in his native language.
Last year, Kundera’s Czech citizenship, from which he was stripped by Czechoslovakia’s communist regime in 1979, was restored – a gesture Czech ambassador in Paris Peter Drulak described as “a symbolic return of the greatest Czech writer in the Czech Republic”.
Only a few weeks ago, the author of The Joke and The Unbearable Lightness of Being announced he was donating his private library and complete archives to the Moravian Library of the city of Brno, his hometown.
Kundera had already received the Czech national prize for literature in 2008 and was awarded honorary citizenship of Brno the following year. He was also nominated several times for the Nobel Prize in Literature.