Milan Kundera denies “informer” allegations in first interview in 25 years

Milan Kundera, photo: Gallimard

It’s a story that has rocked the Czech literary world to its foundations, and now the man at the centre of it has spoken to the media for the first time in 25 years. Milan Kundera, arguably the best-known Czech author writing today, broke his silence to categorically deny allegations he informed on a suspected western agent in 1950.

Milan Kundera has lived in France since 1975 and hasn’t spoken to a journalist – Czech or otherwise - in a quarter of a century. He maintains that it’s his books that are important, not him. On Monday, however, he finally broke his 25-year vow of silence and picked up the phone to the Czech News Agency:

“How my name got there is the only mystery I cannot explain… I know my name is written there, which remains a mystery to me. But how can I inform on someone I don’t know?”

Milan Kundera also offered an explanation for why the timing of the allegations:

“It was the first day of the Frankfurt Book Fair. That could be a coincidence…but it probably isn’t, is it? It’s too well thought-out. Because by now it’s already running, the whole thing. The Book Fair has started, the newspapers are on the newsstands, and not a centimetre of space was reserved for my voice. They should have allowed not a centimetre but a large space for my voice, seeing as these allegations are so serious. I’m outraged.”

The Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes, whose researcher Adam Hradílek made the claims and published them in the leading news weekly Respekt, denies the allegations amounted to an “assassination attempt” on the author, as Milan Kundera says. The Institute’s Vojtěch Ripka appeared on Czech Television to defend the body:

The literary world is still absorbing the aftershocks of the allegations, and the story has made the front pages of the world’s newspapers. Mr Kundera told the Czech News Agency he would “survive” the so-called assassination attempt against him, but he did not say whether he would sue Respekt and the Institute for libel.