Prague (AFP)

The novelist Milan Kundera, who was banished to Paris in 1975, has just regained Czech citizenship, after having had complex relations with his native country, which the communist regime had deprived of his nationality, then Czechoslovakia, 40 years ago.

Milan Kundera, 90, and his wife Vera were given documents at their home by the Czech ambassador in Paris, Petr Drulak, on November 28, said Tuesday to AFP Zuzana Stichova, the spokesman of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

"This is a very important symbolic gesture, a symbolic return of the greatest Czech writer" in his country, commented the diplomat in a statement in Figaro.

The best-known Czech writer in the world, Kundera has also been paradoxically for many years the least known world writer in his country for his works published in France.

Abandoning his native language to write in that of his adopted country, the novelist did not allow, for the sake of perfectionism according to him, the translation into Czech of his works such as "Slowness", "Identity", "Ignorance" or "The Feast of Insignificance".

To be translated by someone else in one's own language would be a "perversity," said the writer, whose books were published in about 40 languages.

- Prohibited of publication -

"Cutting the birthplace of the world is unusual," said a few years ago the Prague critic Jaromir Slomek.

"Perfectionist, pedantic, very good, but did he have sufficient command of Chinese, Japanese, or Korean to be able to control the translations of his works into these languages?" He wondered.

Like many of his contemporaries, Milan Kundera made a long journey, young passionate of the "tomorrows that sing" promised by the communism at the time of the "coup de Prague" of 1948, but protester of the same totalitarian regime about twenty years more later.

Banished from public life and banned from publication after the 1968 "Prague Spring" was crushed by Soviet tanks, he opted for exile in 1975.

Czechoslovakia withdrew his citizenship after the publication of the "Book of Laughter and Forgetting" in 1979, when Czechoslovak President Gustav Husak was described as "president of oblivion".

Milan Kundera obtains French nationality in 1981.

- Incognito -

Since the fall of communism in 1989 in Czechoslovakia, followed by the separation in 1992 of Czechs and Slovaks into two separate states, the novelist came back to his country from time to time, but still incognito.

Stupid stories, difficult to confirm, were circulating in Prague on Kundera's old friend who was crossing him ... disguised as a monk or wearing a false beard.

"Excuse me, I'm not the one for whom you take me," he would have answered one of his old friends who approached him with a "Hi Milan, how are you?".

In October 2007, he did not travel to receive the National Prize for Literature.

And it took more than 20 years for Kundera's bestseller, "The Unbearable Lightness of Being," to be officially published in Czech, in 2006, by the Atlantis publishing house.

The novel "Life is Elsewhere" written at the end of the 1960s was first published in the Czech Republic in 2016, to immediately occupy the 2nd place in the survey "The best book of the year" .

A year later, "The Book of Laughter and Forgetting" of 1978 finally appears in Czech bookstores, with "many changes, cuts and new ideas, by which this long but generous period has paid him his wait," according to the author.

The novelist has cut, without explanation, the passage on the "president of oblivion" Husak and a well-known Czech pop singer called "idiot of music".

In 2008, the exhumation of a police report of 1950, according to which the student Milan Kundera had denounced the unlawful presence in Prague of a young deserter, later condemned to a heavy prison sentence, caused a great deal of ink. "Pure lie," said the writer.

Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis proposed citizenship to Mr Kundera and his wife during a meeting at their home in Paris last year.

© 2019 AFP