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    RIP to one of the great horny novelists of the 20th century, Milan Kundera.

    Jonny Diamond

    July 12, 2023, 11:34am

    I was surprised to read this morning that Milan Kundera, the eminent Czech novelist best known for The Unbearable Lightness of Being, died yesterday at the age of 94. Mainly because I thought he was already dead.

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    For a generation of literary types (Gen X in particular), Kundera was the cool, cosmopolitan, and very horny novelist of all our continental aspirations. Thanks in no small part to the 1988 film adaptation of The Unbearable Lightness of Being—starring ridiculously attractive versions of Daniel Day-Lewis, Juliette Binoche, and Lena Olin—Kundera became a kind of dorm room password for the would-be bookish bohemian (small b).

    Though Kundera was my gateway drug into Czech literature (and other Eastern European authors, for that matter) I don’t think he even makes my top five (Hrabal, Klima, Skvorecky, Hasek, and sure, Kafka). Even as a 19-year-old who devoured The Unbearable Lightness of Being, I found his collection Laughable Loves more creepily leering than subversively sexy, and The Book of Laughter and Forgetting struck me as pompous and portentous (as its title would suggest).

    Nonetheless, Kundera cut a glamorous figure—for a novelist, anyway. Despite enduring harsh Soviet repression after his popular 1967 debut, The Joke, was condemned by Communist apparatchiks the following year, Kundera continued to write about the absurdity of life under the Soviet regime, and made it sexy.

    After scratching out a living as a laborer, piano player, and yes, as an astrologist, Kundera made his way to France in 1975, where he wrote his two most lasting novels, Laughter and Forgetting and Unbearable Lightness. None of his subsequent books would achieve international renown.

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    (One imagines now a scene from a Kundera novella in which the author meets, and attempts to seduce, Simone de Beauvoir in heaven. He does not succeed.)          

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