Czech History Wars

The ‘Milan Kundera affair’, in which the eponymous Czech novelist was recently accused of denouncing a ‘spy’ to the security services in 1950, illustrates how the Communist past has become a battlefield for Czech historians of different generations, writes Aviezer Tucker. 

The publication at the end of last year of details from a document alleging that Milan Kundera was an informer made headlines around the world. A young historian, Adam Hradilek, discovered a report of 1950 that alleges that Kundera, the author of international bestsellers such as The Unbearable Lightness of Being (1982), informed the police of the whereabouts of Miroslav Dvorácek, a Czech courier working for American counterintelligence. Consequently, Dvorácek, was arrested, tortured and spent 14 years in labour camps and prisons. According to the police report, Dvorácek’s friend, who sheltered him in her room, told her boyfriend who then told the 21-year-old Kundera.

Kundera, now aged 79 and living in France, denies both the allegations or of ever knowing the protagonists. His defenders argue that the original document has not been corroborated by any other piece of evidence. Nevertheless, if Kundera was indeed the informer he would have had good reason: Kundera could not have known whether the man who told him about the spy was telling the truth or setting a trap for him should he fail to pass on the information. Had he not informed, he could have been accused of collaboration with a spy and been imprisoned himself. Kundera was an ardent Communist during the early 1950s and his alleged act – informing against a Western spy – would have reflected his convictions at the time. 

Kundera’s supporters accuse those pointing the finger at him of ‘egalitarian envy’ and of wishing to denigrate the most successful living Czech author. In their opinion, even if the report is true, historians should not publish their results in a popular weekly news magazine, such as Respekt, where Hradilek’s findings first sensationally appeared in October 2008.

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