Milan Kundera
Czech-born writer Milan Kundera (centre) attends the 20th anniversary party of the French philosopher Bernard-Henri Levy's review "La regle du jeu" (The rules of the game) in Paris on November 30, 2010. Image Credit: AFP

Prague: Czech-born writer Milan Kundera, author of the novel ‘The Unbearable Lightness of Being’ has died, the Czech library housing his personal collection said on Wednesday. He was 94.

"Milan Kundera died yesterday in Paris after a long illness," said Anna Mrazova, spokeswoman of the Moravian Library (MZK).

Kundera was born in the Czech city of Brno but emigrated to France in 1975 after being ostracised for criticising the 1968 Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia.

He won accolades for his style depicting themes and characters that floated between the mundane reality of everyday life and the lofty world of ideas.

He rarely gave interviews, believing writers should speak through their work.

His first novel "The Joke" was published in 1967 and offered a scathing portrayal of the Czechoslovak Communist regime.

The work was a first step in Kundera's path from party member to exile dissident.

He told French daily Le Monde in 1976 that to call his works political was to oversimplify, and therefore obscure their true significance.

Milan Kundera: Five key works

'The Joke' (1967) -

In his first novel Kundera wrote of his problems with the authorities, weaving a story full of dark humour that was published during the ideological detente before the Prague Spring.

It both sealed his fate with the authorities, who would later strip him of his citizenship, and made him famous within Czechoslovakia.

'Life is Elsewhere' (1969)

Internationally praised but unpublished in the Czech Republic until 2016, Kundera's second novel tells the story of a young poet who fails to break free from his adoring mother and dies an absurd death.

Humorously exploring the hopes and fantasies of youth through his protagonist, who seeks his freedom through art and revolution, Kundera saw parallels with his own evolution from poetry to the existential novel.

'Farewell Waltz' (1972)

Considered by some critics as Kundera's lightest and most playful major novel, this sexual farce with political overtones, set in a spa town, follows jazz musician Kilma, who pays dearly after a one-night-stand.

'The Unbearable Lightness of Being' (1984)

Kundera's most famous novel ‘The Unbearable Lightness of Being’ is a morality tale about freedom and passion, on both an individual and collective level, set against the Prague Spring and its aftermath in exile.

It was turned into a movie starring Juliette Binoche and Daniel Day Lewis, and earned Kundera a worldwide following.

'Slowness' (1995)

After discovering with horror the liberties taken by the French translation of "The Joke", Kundera devotes much of his time to revising his translated works.

"Slowness", the first in a cycle of four novels all short and very dark and written directly in French, causes a stir in literary circles as it praises slowness over what Kundera charges as the West's obsession with speed.

It raises Kundera's status worldwide while also bringing him his first seriously bad reviews.