Novelists Rush to the Defense of Milan Kundera

Posted on November 4, 2008

A number of well-known novelists have signed a letter defending Milan Kundera, the author of the Unbearable Lightness of Being. The Czech magazine Respekt recently claimed that Kundera (who is an outspoken critic of Communism) was actually secret police informer who got a U.S. spy thrown in jail for fourteen years. Kundera vehemently denies the charges.

Authors including Philip Roth, Salman Rushie and JM Coetzee have rallied to the defence of Milan Kundera. The writers are condemning claims made last month in a Czech magazine that The Unbearable Lightness of Being author denounced a western spy to communist authorities half a century ago.

The 11 authors who, along with the Nobel Prize-winning Coetzee, include fellow laureates Nadine Gordimer, Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Orhan Pamuk, issued a statement supporting Kundera, saying that the "honour of one of the greatest living novelists has been tarnished on dubious grounds, to say the least".

They said they wished to express their "indignation" at the "orchestrated campaign of calumny" that has been waged against Kundera, adding that Kundera himself has issued a categorical denial of the accusations. The statement adds that "the testimony given by a distinguished academic from Prague clearly exonerates him from his charge", although is not clear whom the academic is.


Kundera, 79, told a Czech news agency that the attack was "the assassination of an author". He said last month: "I am totally astonished by something that I did not expect, about which I knew nothing only yesterday, and that did not happen. I did not know the man at all."

The secret police of Czechoslovakia in the 1950s were hardly known for their openness and honesty. The entire episode sounds like a smear tactic to pay Kundera back for his anti-Communist writings.

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