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Wednesday, October 17, 2007 at 18:44
Subject: /Czech-Culture/
Czechs "to honour Kundera", the writer they love to hate
Prague (dpa) - Nearly 18 years after the fall of communism the Czech Republic's top literature honour is reportedly going to Milan Kundera, the most famous Czech-born writer with whom Czechs have what could at best be called a love-hate relationship.
The culture minister is to award Kundera the State Prize for Literature on October 25, CTK news agency reported Wednesday, citing an unnamed source from the country's Writers' Guild.

"I can neither confirm nor deny it," culture ministry spokeswoamn Marcela Zizkova told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa. "The laureate will be announced on October 25."

Kundera, 78, is perhaps the best-known - but by no means the only - Czech communist-era emigre whose comeback to his former homeland has gone awry.

The writer, residing in France since 1970s, was welcomed by a wall of distrust and envy after the fall of communism in 1989.

Many of his Czech readers then felt disowned and hurt by Kundera's switch from writing in Czech to penning his novels in French.

Kundera had been blacklisted during communism, and Czechs still have hard time getting hold of his books in their mother tongue even 18 years after the communist regime fell.

Kundera, known for his perfectionism, insists on revising his older Czech works for new publication and on translating his French- penned novels and essays to his mother tongue himself.

As he prefers working on new novels instead of on old ones, his Czech readers will either have to wait, or read him in a foreign language, or settle for pirate translations occasionally appearing on the Internet.

But at least some progress was recorded last year. The Unbearable Lightness of Being, the estranged author's most famous novel first published in 1984, hit bookstores in the Czech Republic for the first time a year ago. Its first 10,000-copy run sold out within days.

According to the CTK report, Kundera does not plan to attend the October 25 ceremony in Prague.

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