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Milan Kundera skips hometown conference on his work

Last Updated: Saturday, May 30, 2009 | 12:30 PM ET

Czech-born author Milan Kundera has failed to show up at a conference about his work in his hometown of Brno.

The writer, based in Paris, is rarely seen in public and seldom visits his home country.

Officials at Brno's Masaryk University said the event was the first international conference on Kundera to be held in the Czech Republic.

Scholars and translators from as far away as the U.S., France, Iceland and Italy have converged in the southern Czech town.

Kundera sent a tongue-in-cheek letter to organizers for holding a "necrophile party" for three days starting Friday.

He said in the message, which was read out at the launch, that he "sees himself as a French writer and insists his work should be studied as French literature and classified as such in book stores."

Became a French citizen, writes in French

Kundera left the former Czechoslovakia for France in 1975 and became a French citizen in 1981.

The last book he wrote in the Czech language was 1990's Immortality.

Since then, Kundera has only published his books in French, and had until recently forbidden Czech editors from publishing his books in their language.

His previous works include The Joke (1967), The Book of Laughter and Forgetting (1979) and The Unbearable Lightness of Being (1984), which was made into a movie in 1988 starring Daniel Day-Lewis, Lena Olin, and Juliette Binoche.

Kundera, who turned 80 on April 1, did not return to his homeland last year pick up the Czech National Prize for Literature due to health problems.

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