Milan Kundera was born into a highly cultured and sophisticated family of a Brno pianist, Milada Janosikova, and a distinguished professor of Janáek’s Academy of Music, Ludvík Kundera. Thus, in addition to literature, among those early interests that he took seriously was music. In 1948, the year of a Communist coup in Czechoslovakia, Kundera began his study at the Charles University in Prague and simultaneously attended the famous film school of the Prague Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts, from which he graduated in 1958 after being forced to withdraw from 1950 to 1956 because of his expulsion from the Communist Party. During that hiatus, he composed poetry (a genre in which he had been publishing since 1949) and music, including “Composition for Four Instruments” and a setting of verses by Guillaume Apollinaire, an author who much influenced Kundera’s own poetry. The Prague film school also became his employer: There, he taught world literature. In 1963, he married Vera Hrabankova and joined the editorial board of the journal Literarni noviny.
Having associated himself strongly with the movement known variously as the Prague Spring and “socialism with a human face,” Kundera fell into disfavor following the 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia by the Soviet Union. His works were put on the censor’s index and withdrawn from the libraries, and he was left without any means of support when forced out of his professorship in 1970....
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