Prague grants Milan Kundera citizenship stripped under communism

Prague (AFP) –


Novelist Milan Kundera has gained Czech citizenship four decades after communist Czechoslovakia stripped him of citizenship following his emigration to France, the Czech foreign ministry said on Tuesday.

Ministry spokeswoman Zuzana Stichova told AFP that Kundera and his wife Vera had received the documents from the Czech ambassador to Paris on November 28.

"There was no ceremony, just a personal delivery," she said, adding the ministry appreciated Kundera whose "books made the Czech Republic famous worldwide".

Communist authorities in then-Czechoslovakia banned Kundera's books and stripped him of citizenship following the publication of "The Book of Laughter and Forgetting" in 1979, in which he called then-Czechoslovak president Gustav Husak "the president of forgetting".

Kundera, who is 90, left his home country for France in 1975 and took French citizenship in 1981.

Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis offered citizenship to Kundera and his wife during his visit to Paris last year.

"They were genuinely pleased. They are aware it's not a life-changing moment, but they definitely felt the symbolism which was very important for them," ambassador Petr Drulak told the Czech Pravo daily after handing the papers to the Kunderas at their Paris home.

Czechoslovakia split into the Czech Republic and Slovakia in 1993, four years after shedding the Communist totality of four decades. Citizenships were split accordingly into Czech and Slovak.

Kundera visits the Czech Republic rarely, and his perhaps greatest recent involvement with his homeland occurred in 2008 when a local magazine accused him of being a police informer during Communism, which he denied as "pure lies".

His novels include "The Joke" (1967), "The Unbearable Lightness of Being" (1984) and "The Festival of Insignificance" (2013).