Interview: Milan Kundera by Olga Carlisle

Olga Carlisle

Interview: Milan Kundera


In the 1980s, Milan Kundera has done for his native Czechoslovakia what Gabriel Garcia Márquez did for Latin America in the 1960s and Solzhenitsyn did for Russia in the 1970s. He has brought Eastern Europe to the attention of the Western reading public, and he has done so with insights that are universal in their appeal.

Kundera’s most recent novels, The Book of Laughter and Forgetting (1980) and last year's The Unbearable Lightness of Being, deal with the death of culture in our time. Implicit in the feeling of menace is the danger of nuclear war. Kundera deals with this danger allegorically, with an irrepressible sense of the grotesque.

He has lived in France since 1975, and has been prolific enough to dispel the popular notion that writers uprooted from their native soil lose their inspiration. In book after versatile book, the reader finds passion, playfulness and a strong measure of eroticism. Kundera has succeeded in turning the Czechoslovakia of his youth into a vivid, mythical, erotic land.

The nature of his achievement may explain in part why Kundera is so fiercely protective of his privacy. No myth-maker or mystifier wants to be revealed. In a recent interview, the novelist Philip Roth quoted Kundera as having told him:

When I was a little boy in short pants, I dreamed

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