Accusation Against Writer Reopens Traumas of Czech Past

Dan Bilefsky in the New York Times:

Screenhunter_01_oct_30_1132Life appears to be imitating art in a drama convulsing the Czech Republic: an accusation that Milan Kundera, one of Eastern Europe’s most celebrated writers, denounced a Western intelligence agent to Czechoslovakia’s Communist police when he was a 21-year-old student. The agent, Miroslav Dvoracek, served 14 years in jail, including hard labor in a uranium mine.

In Mr. Kundera’s first novel, “The Joke,” a mordant satire of Stalinist Czechoslovakia in the 1950s, the protagonist, Ludvik Jahn, is expelled from the Communist Party and forced out of a university after being denounced by his friend Pavel. For the unlikely crime of possessing a sense of humor, Ludvik is sent to work in the mines.

Few here have failed to notice the parallel, which has added a fitting literary tint — along with the sort of denunciation and betrayal that haunt Mr. Kundera’s books — to an episode that has spurred a complex bout of national soul-searching. The accusation was published Monday by the Czech political weekly magazine Respekt and immediately denied by Mr. Kundera.

More here.