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Czech author Milan Kundera to be awarded Franz Kafka Prize

Kundera, who has been living in France since 1975, will be the 20th recipient of the award named after Prague-born writer Franz Kafka

Prague, Sept 20 (CTK) – Writer Milan Kundera will receive the Franz Kafka Prize this year, Franz Kafka Society chairman Vladimír Železný told CTK today.

Železný stated that Kundera said he felt honored to receive the award, especially since Kafka was a writer he admired a lot.

Kundera, 91, a Czech-born novelist who has been living in France since 1975, will be the 20th recipient of this international literary award bestowed on contemporary authors.

Železný said the jury appreciated the life work of Kundera, which is an extraordinary contribution to Czech culture and which was translated to more than 40 languages.

Kundera has been writing in French since the 1990s.

Past recipients of the Franz Kafka Prize include Philip Roth, Elfriede Jelinek, Harold Pinter, Haruki Murakami, Yves Bonnefoy, Peter Handke and Margaret Atwood.

The prize has also been won by several Czech authors: Ivan Wernisch, Ivan Klíma, Arnošt Lustig, Václav Havel and Daniela Hodrová.

Železný said the Kafka Society decided to nominate Kundera for the Nobel Prize in Literature, joining a number of other world cultural institutions that have done it.

Kundera made his mark as a writer not only in the former Czechoslovakia with The Joke (Žert, 1967), but also in emigration where he wrote such novels as The Unbearable Lightness of Being (Nesnesitelná lehkost bytí, 1984) and Immortality (Nesmrtelnost, 1990). His works were banned by the Communist regime in Czechoslovakia.

After he published the novel The Book of Laughter and Forgetting (Kniha smíchu a zapomnění, 1978), where the Communist leader Gustav Husak was called the “president of forgetting” he was stripped of Czechoslovak citizenship. He was granted French citizenship two years later. In 2019, Kundera was also given Czech citizenship.

His latest novel, The Festival of Insignificance (2013), was published in Czech translation earlier this month and it is his first book written in French that he permitted to be translated into his mother tongue.

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