“It shows his deep roots” – Kundera gifts book collection to library in native Brno

Milan Kundera with his wife Věra, photo: archive of Czech Ministry of Culture

The celebrated Czech-born author and essayist Milan Kundera, author of The Unbearable Lightness of Being and other acclaimed books, has decided to donate his private library and archive to the Moravian Library in his native Brno. The extensive collection will be moved to the Czech Republic from his Paris flat in the autumn and after being catalogued will be available to the public. I discussed the news with literary scientist and director of Moravian Library in Brno Tomáš Kubíček and I first asked him how Milan Kundera’s decision came about.

“It’s a result of a long-lasting cooperation and friendship. Last year, Milan Kundera, his wife Věra and I prepared an exhibition about Kundera’s novels and essays. Then the Moravian Library published a catalogue to accompany this exhibition and we also released a book in Czech and French entitled ‘Milan Kundera in Translation.’”

Photo: Václav Richter

“And during the process of this collaboration we started to speak about the donation of Milan Kundera’s library to the Moravian Library and here we are.”

What does it say about Kundera’s relationship to his home country, or more precisely, to his home town of Brno?

“From my point of view, it is quite clear. You can read it as a symbol. It shows that Milan Kundera has deep roots not only in the Czech lands but especially in Brno. I think it is a message about returning to his hometown.”

Apart from Kundera’s books and translations, what else will the collection include?

Tomáš Kubíček,  photo: Václav Richter

“The collection includes books that have been published worldwide in more than 40 languages and in more than 4,000 editions.

“Very important part of the donation is the archive, which contains articles from newspapers, reviews and criticisms as well as Milan Kundera’s drawings and shorter texts.

“In fact, the whole content of the archive will only be revealed after we do an inventory of the material.”

So when exactly will the collection be moved to your library?  And will it be available only to researchers or will the public have access o to it as well?

“It will be accessible to everyone. We, it means Milan Kundera, his wife Věra and I, have a plan to move the library to Brno in the autumn, but it depends on the situation related to the coronavirus.

“Then we will carry out an inventory, which will take about four months, followed by library cataloguing. If everything goes according to plan, the collection will be available to the readers at the end of the next year.”

Moravian Library in Brno | Photo: Millenium187,  Wikimedia Commons,  CC BY-SA 3.0

I believe you decided to dedicate a special section of your library exclusively to Milan Kundera’s collection.

“That’s true. We are planning to set up a special reading room for Kundera’s collection. It will serve not only as a reading room, but also as a place for readers’ discussions, public readings, meeting with Czech and foreign authors, reflecting Kundera’s worldwide acclaim.”