…or the unbearble lightness of being a fink!
One fervently hopes that the snitching allegation against Kundera is groundless:
Milan Kundera denies spy tip-off claims
Bojan Pancevski in Vienna
The celebrated Czech author Milan Kundera has rejected accusations that he denounced a Western intelligence agent in his country when he was a student 58 years ago.
The claims by local historians are based on a 1950 police report stating that Mr Kundera informed on a young Czech pilot who worked as an agent for American intelligence and was arrested on his first mission in Prague following the tip-off.
It was also alleged that Mr Kundera’s supposed denunciation prompted the arrest of several people who helped the agent enter the country, one of whom was later executed by the Soviet-controlled Communist authorities of former Czechoslovakia.
Mr Kundera, who is known for his reclusiveness and has not spoken publicly since 1985, broke his silence yesterday with a brief statement to deny the claims, which he deemed an “assassination of an author”. Speaking to the Czech News Agency, he said: “I am completely taken aback by this story, of which I know nothing and which never happened. I never knew the person involved. It is a lie.”
Famous not only as the author of such modern classics as The Unbearable Lightness of Being and Immortality, but also for his relentless opposition to totalitarianism, Mr Kundera, 79, was one of the most prominent Czech dissidents and critics of the Communist regime. Himself a target of the communist secret services, Mr Kundera opposed the Soviet-led invasion of 1968 and was forced to immigrate to France, where he still lives today.
He was 20 when he is said to have reported on the agent Miroslav Dvoracek, then 22, who was subsequently arrested and thrown in prison for 14 years, some of which he served in a uranium mine labour camp.
The historian Adam Hradilek of the Prague-based Institute for Study of Totalitarian Regimes published his claims in the local magazine Respekt yesterday, along with the alleged police report that bears the number 624/1950-II. The report, made in a police station in Prague on March 14, 1950 reads: “Student Milan Kundera, born April 1, 1929 in Brno… reported to our department… Dvoracek, reportedly a deserter who had illegally fled to Germany.”
Mr Dvoracek had fled Czechoslovakia for Germany after the 1948 communist coup. He was recruited in a refugee camp near Munich by the US-sponsored Czechoslovak intelligence in exile co-ordinated by General Frantisek Moravec, who also worked with the MI6.
After receiving basic intelligence training, Mr Dvoracek was sent back to his home country, now in the grip of communism, to collect information about the chemical industry. He crossed the border with the help of local farmers and went to Prague, where he visited a female acquaintance and agreed to spend the night in her room at a student hall of residence, but was subsequently arrested and charged with desertion, espionage and high treason.
At the trial, Mr Dvoracek faced the death penalty but was eventually sentenced to 22 years in prison. The family of the farmers who helped him enter the country also received lengthy prison sentences and one of them was even executed.
But Mr Dvoracek, 80, who now lives in Sweden and is in poor health after recently suffering a stroke, has refused to speak with the historian Mr Hradilek about his arrest as he apparently does not accept the claims about Mr Kundera. His wife Marketa Dvoracek Novak told AFP that he was not interested in the identity of the informer.
“We’re not surprised that Kundera’s name has surfaced in Czech media reports as the informant. Kundera is a good writer but I am under no illusions about him as a human being, “ Mrs Dvoracek said.
Mr Hradilek, the historian, was not available for a comment yesterday, but his associate Vojtech Ripka told The Times that they had no reason to doubt the authenticity of the 1950 police report.
However, it remains unclear why the communist authorities of Czechoslovakia never used the document to discredit Mr Kundera, who was monitored by the secret service as one of the most vehement critics of their regime.
“The document was not in Mr Kundera’s vast file kept by the secret service. It remained with normal police and it could have been forgotten in the archive,” Mr Ripka said.
He admitted however that there was no evidence whatsoever that Mr Kundera had any contact with the country’s secret service and that there were no other known reports that the writer denounced anyone else before or after 1950.
A Communist Party member since 1948, Mr Kundera was infatuated with socialist ideology and supported the regime until his first visit to Moscow in 1954 when he witnessed the true extent of totalitarian oppression.
The claims have caused a severe controversy in the Czech Republic, where Mr Kundera is considered a national hero. According to some, even if the document is authentic, the possibility remains that the young Mr Kundera simply acted as a patriot and reported the person he considered to be a foreign spy.
Sonja Zemanekova, 58, an art historian, said: “When I was a student Kundera was not only a great writer but also a role model who encouraged us to think differently. Even if in his youth he reported on someone who he felt was a threat to his country, it does not make him a morally flawed person nor does it affect his later contribution as a writer and a champion of free speech.”
But others, like the former dissident Jan Urban, called on Mr Kundera to come clean. Mr Urban said: “He’s one of the greatest writers of today – if he could just say ’yes, I made a mistake when I was a 21-year-old and probably someone paid for that mistake instead of me’ he could even make a great book out of that. Instead, he has pretended that nothing happened, and I think that that is a mistake.”
From Times Online
October 13, 2008
Milan Kundera ‘denounced Western spy to police’
Milan Kundera, the famous Czech writer renowned for his antipathy toward communism, denounced a Western intelligence agent to Czechoslovakia’s communist police when he was a student, it has been claimed.
The author of The Unbearable Lightness of Being allegedly reported the agent, a young Czech pilot, after the spy visited a female friend of his at a student dormitory in 1950.
After Mr Kundera alerted the police the agent, Miroslav Dvoracek was arrested and spent 14 years in jail, according to the Czech magazine Respekt.
The magazine quotes a police report dated March 14, 1950: ‘Student Milan Kundera, born April 1, 1929 in Brno… reported to our department (that a fellow student was to meet)… Dvoracek, reportedly a deserter who had illegally fled to Germany.’
Mr Dvoracek had fled Czechoslovakia for Germany after the 1948 communist coup. In a refugee camp in Germany, he was recruited by US-sponsored Czechoslovak intelligence and sent back to his home country, now in the grip of communism.
On his trip to his home country, he visited a female student friend of Mr Kundera, and was subsequently arrested .He faced the death penalty but was ultimately sentenced to 22 years in jail.
He spent the next 14 years in communist prisons and working in a uranium mine – the usual destination for political prisoners. He was finally released in 1963, shortly after Mr Kundera published his first successful book ‘Laughable Loves,’ a collection of short stories.
Now 80 and living in Sweden, Mr Dvoracek has spent his life believing that it was the girl he visited at the dormitory who betrayed him to the secret police.
Mr Kundera’s name was chanced on by accident by Adam Hradilek, from the Czech Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes, (USTR) as he searched for details on the case of his relative, Iva Militka, who was a friend of Mr Dvoracek.
"It is very probably that Dvoracek was arrested based on Milan Kundera’s information," Vojtech Ripka from the Czech Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes (USTR) told Czech television yesterday. "He even faced capital punishment, but finally was sentenced to 22 years in prison and he spent 14 years in communist jails."
Often described as a dissident writer, Mr Kundera, 79, whose most famous books include "The Joke", "Life is Elsewhere" and "The Farewell Waltz" has always insisted that his writing is not inherently political. However his writings frequently explore the complexities of life under communism and parody totalitarianism.
One of his stories in ‘Laughable Loves’, entitled ‘Edward and God’, is informed by the idea of duplicity and by his own experience of communism. In the story, a young atheist first fakes godliness to attract a beautiful, and religious young woman, and then, when his show of religiosity lands him in hot water with his (very unattractive) Communist boss, he seduces her to ensure that he keeps his job.
Mr Kundera, like most of his Czech peers, joined the communist party in 1948. He was expelled for "anti communist activities" in 1950, and later used that experience as the main theme in his first novel, The Joke, which was published in 1967 despite its strong anti-totalitarian message.
He was allowed back into the communist party in 1956, but by the early 1960s had become outspoken against the repressive communist regime. ‘The Joke’ caused controversy in Czechoslovakia when it was published and became hugely popular amongst dissidents in the wake of the Russian invasion in 1968.
After the Russian invasion, his status changed radically. In 1970 he was expelled from the Communist Party, sacked from his teaching post at Prague Academy and his works were removed from bookshelves.
He finally fled Czechoslovakia in 1975 after being offered a teaching position at the University of Rennes in Franceand has lived there ever since, becoming a French citizen in 1981.
He has always jealously guarded the details of his personal life which, he says, are "nobody’s business". In a rare interview with the writer Ian McEwan, he said: "We constantly re-write our own biographies and continually give matters new meanings. To re-write history in this sense – indeed, in an Orwellian sense – is not at all inhuman. On the contrary, it is very human."
He would not comment on the most recent claims, Respekt noted.
Milan Kundera denies report he snitched on U.S. spy
Monday, October 13, 2008 | 3:01 PM ET
The Associated Press
A document written by the Czech Communist police claims that author Milan Kundera informed on a purported Western spy in the 1950s, which Kundera quickly denied.
The Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes, a state-sponsored institute, revealed Monday that a team of historians and researchers found a document written by the SNB, or Czech Communist police, that identified Kundera as the person who informed on a man who was later imprisoned for 14 years.
I am totally astonished by something that I did not expect, about which I knew nothing only yesterday, and that did not happen. I did not know the man at all.—Milan Kundera
The usually reclusive Kundera, author of The Unbearable Lightness of Being, rushed to reject the charge.
"I am totally astonished by something that I did not expect, about which I knew nothing only yesterday, and that did not happen. I did not know the man at all," Kundera was quoted as saying by the CTK news agency.
Kundera accused the institute and the media of "the assassination of an author."
According to the file, published on the institute’s website, Kundera informed on Miroslav Dvoracek in 1950. Dvoracek had been recruited in Germany by the Czech emigré intelligence network to work as a spy against the Communist regime.
Dvoracek visited a woman in Prague and left a suitcase in her apartment. She told her boyfriend, who later told Kundera, and Kundera went to the police, the file says.
Dvoracek was arrested when he came to collect the suitcase. He was later sentenced to 22 years in prison and eventually served 14, working in uranium mines.
Expelled after criticism of Communist party
Collaboration with the Communist Party was widespread in Czechoslovakia. The country was one of the first to publish the names of alleged collaborators, as part of the so-called "screening process" in 1991.
The Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes has been assigned by the Czech government to collect and publish Communist-era files. It is widely viewed as credible.
Kundera joined the Communist Party as a student, but was expelled after criticizing its totalitarian nature. After the 1968 Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia crushed the liberal reforms of Alexander Dubcek, he left the country.
The books Kundera wrote after his departure were banned from publication in his homeland until the Communist collapse in 1989, but his work was respected among dissidents.
Kundera, 79, has lived in France since 1975 and it is there that he published his most famous books, including The Unbearable Lightness of Being, The Book of Laughter and Forgetting, The Art of the Novel and Immortality. He was granted French citizenship in 1981.
The author lives in virtual seclusion, only travels to his former homeland incognito and never speaks to the media.