After countless translations and a celebrated 1988 film version, Milan Kundera‘s novel “The Unbearable Lightness of Being” is finally seeing the light of day in the author’s Czech homeland.
The question is: What took so long?
That depends on whom you ask. Prague literary lions say the famously exacting emigre scribe, who moved to France in the ’70s to escape communist censorship, worried that unless he approved a Czech release, unauthorized copies of the novel would pop up. Indeed, until now, most Czechs, unless they speak English, have only had access to the Oscar-nommed 1988 film.
Although well received in the States, Czech auds are largely unimpressed by the pic, finding its erotic scenes a silly distraction from Kundera’s philosophical meditations on transcendentalism. The author himself swore he’d never allow another adaptation after the Philip Kaufman-helmed pic came out.
For his part, Kundera writes in the book’s preface that he’d refused to authorize a translation until now because he wanted a “definitive” edition of his tale of lovers amid the collapsing Prague Spring movement of 1968.
But as with many other Czechs who did well abroad while compatriots endured the Soviet-backed regime until 1989, Kundera has stirred a degree of envy.
The “Lightness” release by Brno-based Atlantis has won little ink in the Czech press — although readers have been snapping it up in Prague bookshops.