Milan Kundera has had a bit of a clear-out after his wife had a dream.

The author of "The Unbearable Lightness of Being" has gone full Marie Kondo, emptying the shelves of his Paris apartment of 3,000 of his own books.

The legendary Czech novelist has given his massive collection of author copies in scores of languages to a new library in his home town of Brno.

The epic decluttering was inspired by the writer's wife Vera Kunderova, who said the late American author Philip Roth came to her in a dream and whispered the idea into her ear.

"The decision was clear. There was no doubt," Kunderova told Czech radio. "There was no choosing."

"I prepared the whole thing and Tomas Kubicek (from Brno's Moravian Library) simply... boxed up all the books and took them away," she added.


Although she did have her doubts when movers left. "Sadness came when the shelves were empty so I put out some chestnuts and other small things I used to buy at the Picasso Museum (in Paris).

"I couldn't stand the emptiness so I started to put silly things on the shelves."

The new Milan Kundera library opened in Brno last week on Kundera's 94th birthday. Fittingly for a literary joker, he was born on April 1.

- A kind of homecoming -

"Milan was born in Brno, this is a symbolic act, he's returning to Brno," his wife said.

Kundera left communist Czechoslovakia for France in 1975, having falling out of favour with the authorities after the Prague Spring reform movement was crushed by Soviet-led armies in 1968.

The ageing novelist -- who rarely speaks in public -- has had an often complicated relationship with his homeland.

His wife, a literary agent, said the new library will help bridge that gap. "He may depart, but he will live on in Brno. People will go and meet him. The house where he was born is 10 minutes from the library."

"It will serve above all students and researchers, but also anyone who wants to reflect on Kundera's work," Kubicek, head of the Moravian Library, told AFP.


The new library houses Kundera's drawings, newspaper articles on his work, but also the 17th-century original of an essay by the French philosopher Montaigne, signed by the author and bound in calf skin, which Kundera received as a prize.

"There's so much material and we can't display everything. He received an awful lot of prizes and they are also a part of the library. We'd need a hall for that," said Kubicek.

The library will also organise lectures and expert debates with the help of an advisory team that includes French playwright Yasmina Reza and Frankfurt Book Fair head Juergen Boos.

Kundera's critics say he turned his back on fellow Czechs and dissidents following his exile in France. He only regained his Czech nationality in 2019.

In 2008, a Czech magazine accused him of being a police informer under communist rule, which he denied as "pure lies".

Kundera stopped books he wrote in French from being translated into his native language.

But Kubicek said that Kundera's supposed rift with his homeland was "a big Czech myth".

"When people in France speak critically about Kundera, they are talking about his novels, while here all the criticism is down to balcony gossip," he said.


"People here don't talk about his texts or ideas. It would be nice if the library changed that."

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