Written by Anna Macková and Czech Press Agency
Milan Kundera, the world renown Czech-born author who has been living in Paris, returns back to Brno. Or rather his lifelong work.
Kundera decided to donate his books and private archive to the Moravian Library (MZK). It is a clear message that Brno is where he still feels at home.
On 1 April, on his 94th birthday, a separate study room was opened in MZK that bears the designation Milan Kundera’s Library. The collection was transported from the Kunderas’ apartment last autumn.
Kundera was born in the Moravian capital in 1929. He emigrated in 1975 together with his wife Věra and the couple found a new home in Paris. He was stripped of his Czechoslovak citizenship by the Communist regime four years later and became a French citizen in 1981. His Czech citizenship was only restored in 2019.
The recently opened library includes more than 3,000 copies of various editions of Kundera’s books published in Czech and other 50 world languages, e.g. 195 items in French, 167 items in English, 56 items in Romanian, 49 items in Turkish, 39 items in Greek, 22 items in Arabic or 10 items in Ukrainian.
In addition to that, there are reviews of Kundera’s books, an exclusive archive of articles written by him, articles about him, his correspondence (e.g. with film director Federico Fellini), authorized photographs and even drawings by Kundera.
How is it possible that Kundera, the enigmatic writer who avoids speaking to the media, donated his archive to his hometown? As the French put it, cherchez la femme.
It is thanks to Kundera’s wife that the library is established in Brno. “She is not only the author of this great idea, but she also put the whole project together and helped prepare the transport with extraordinary diligence and commitment,” said MZK director Tomáš Kubíček.
Kundera commented with his usual restraint: “I think that books belong to a library, so it is logical that I put them in the Moravian Library.” Interestingly, it is not far from his natal home in Purkyňova street.
If you wonder what a famous writer’s personal library looks like and you want to be among the first people ever to see Kundera’s private archive, you now have an amazing opportunity.
Milan Kundera’s Library is designed as a cozy living room with bookcases, a round table with chairs and a few small tables with armchairs. There are three computers as the archival material, such as the copies with the author’s proofreading, will be gradually scanned and accessible primarily in digital form.
In addition, the library will have audio versions of Kundera’s works in Czech, French, English and German later this year. Milan Kundera’s Library is also to serve as a meeting place offering author readings and attractive lectures and discussions on literary topics.
Milan Kundera’s Library has already met with great public interest. It is open daily except Sundays from 10 am until 5 pm. To visit, you need either to be registered at the library (for 6 months, 100 CZK or 1 year, 200 CZK) or obtain a one-time entry pass (that is actually valid for 30 days, 20 CZK). For more details, see mzk.cz/en/services/registration.
Photo courtesy of Moravian Library, MZK.