Poet, prose writer Ludvík Kundera dies at 90

Ludvík Kundera, photo: CTK

One of the country’s most respected poets and literary scholars, Ludvík Kundera, died on Tuesday at the age of 90. The writer (a cousin of the internationally-renowned author Milan Kundera) had a wide scope, writing poetry, drama, prose and translating from several languages. Last year he received the Jaroslav Seiffert prize for life-long achievement.

Ludvík Kundera,  photo: CTK
Ludvík Kundera, born in 1920, was involved in the Czech literary scene for more than 60 years; aside from his own writing, he specialized in the work of poet Frantíšek Halas, who he knew personally. Kundera published his first collection of poems (Demons in Us) back in 1946 and was a proponent of the avant garde, including Dada and Surrealism.

He was strongly inspired as a writer during a brief time in Paris where he met, among others the painter, poet and sculptor Hans Arp. Only two years earlier, during World War II, Kundera had suffered internment at a forced-labour camp in Berlin, Germany where he fell seriously ill. And in later years he would have to endure other difficulties in totalitarian Czechoslovakia: speaking to Czech Radio in 2009, he recalled what living and working under the Communists was like:

“It wasn’t easy for poets or artists or ordinary people on th e wrong side of the regime, especially if you had kids. It wasn’t that they focussed on you, but that they targeted your wife, children, and relatives. This is what was so malicious. Of course in the 1950s, there were executions, but here people were worn away by the regime. The state apparatus didn’t even have to ban you outright: things worked through all kinds of secret phone calls and information: you couldn’t know where you stood, but you knew you were on the outside.”

After the fall of Communism in Czechoslovakia, Ludvík Kundera published with the Brno-based publisher Atlantis and taught at universities both at home and abroad. Just last year, he was awarded the Jaroslav Seiffert prize recognizing lifelong achievement, given by the Charter 77 Foundation. Fellow writer Jiří Stránský reacted on Tuesday to news of Ludvík Kundera’s death, saying the author would be sorely missed.

“He’s a person I have the highest respect for. I received several books from him and several translations and essays. Of course we will always have his work, but we will miss what he could still have written: he had a brilliant mind and a great spirit.”