Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Milan Kundera: A Fink for the Commies?

Milan Kundera, the great, ex-pat, Czech novelist of modern classics such as The Unbearable Lightness of Being is alleged to have ratted out a 22 year old man out to the Communist authorities in 1950. This is a shocker to readers of his brilliant, humanist books set in Soviet-occupied Czechoslovakia. I'm also surprised to learn that the Czechs hate him. (article)
By mid-October, the Tlustý/Morava affair had been bumped from the front pages by a scandal with considerably more gravitas, though no less slavering by the media: a prominent weekly magazine claimed that in 1950, Milan Kundera had sent to prison a 22-year-old Czech who had been spying for the West. The furor this news aroused in the Czech Republic seems inseparable from the Czechs' persistent "allergy" to the expatriate novelist. Ivan Klíma diagnosed the ailment in a 1990 interview with Philip Roth, explaining that Czechs resent Kundera for being "an indulged and rewarded child of the Communist regime [before] 1968," too hands-off in his opposition to the party even after he began to criticize it in the '60s, and all the while presenting his travails under Communism to the world beyond the Iron Curtain in a "simplified and spectacular way." Now people were wondering how Kundera could have suppressed the 1950 incident for sixty years, even as he garnered international prestige for his opposition to Communism and his literary autopsies of the moral rot it breeds in the individual conscience. Perhaps he hadn't kept the episode under wraps. Could he have recycled it in his fiction? After all, his stories and novels are full of the betrayals endemic to a totalitarian regime. Speculating on whether Kundera had pulled off a grand deception, Czech journalists spiced their accounts of the affair with scenes from his novels in which characters seem to play according to the 1950 script.
Kundera denies it, but he was listed in a police report as the one who gave the name. What a terrible disappointment if true.

No comments:

Post a Comment