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Milan Kundera to receive Slovenian state decoration

Ljubljana, 4 April - Czech-French writer Milan Kundera will receive one of Slovenia's highest state decorations for raising his voice for Slovenia's independence and for outstanding contribution to understanding turbulent times in Europe.

The Golden Order of Merit (pictured) will be conferred on Czech-born French writer Milan Kundera, 90.
Photo: Tamino Petelinšek/STA
File photo

The cover of Milan Kundera's The Festival of Insignificance novel's Slovenian translation.
Photo: STA
File photo

Kundera, 90, will be given the Golden Order of Merit, which is bestowed on Slovenian or foreign citizens for outstanding merit in civilian, diplomatic or military areas.

Announcing the news on Thursday, President Borut Pahor's office said that at a decisive moment when Slovenia had been amid efforts to gain independence, Kundera had raised his voice "to defend our historical and cultural characteristics and political independence".

The initiative to decorate Kundera was given by France-based Slovenian philosopher and photographer Evgan Bavčar, who said that when Slovenia was attacked and isolated in 1991, Kundera spoke in favour of Slovenia in France.

Having been acquainted with the situation in Slovenia by the Slovenian Writers' Association, Kundera wrote a piece in which he outlined Slovenian cultural history stressing that "Slovenia must be saved and that it belongs to Western Europe", Bavčar explained for the STA.

The president's office also praised Kundera as an accurate observer of the turbulent times of the second half of the 20th century in Europe.

Not only did he aesthetically perfect the novel, he has also given it "a noble mission of expressing universal principles and values of the human spirit whose substance is freedom", the release reads.

Kundera is expected to be decorated this year. Bavčar, who praised Pahor's decision as "a very nice gesture", described the writer with the words: "Kundera possesses the love of truth of Socrates, the moderation of Plato and the strength of judgement of Aristotle."

Kundera, born on 1 April 1929 in Brno, the Czech Republic, joined the communist party when he was young, but was excluded from it due to his reformist views expressed during and after the 1968 Prague Spring.

He went into exile in Paris in 1975. He was stripped of Czechoslovak citizenship in 1979, but granted French citizenship in the early 1980s.

Kundera's best-known work is The Unbearable Lightness of Being from 1984, and he has been nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature on several occasions.

The writer has always promoted personal and creative freedom, with his works criticising the socialist society.

In 1992, he received the Vilenica Prize, which is given out to authors from Central Europe by Slovenia's Vilenica International Literary Festival.

© STA, 2019