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President Pahor presents the Golden Order of Merit to Milan Kundera

Paris, 13. 11. 2021 | press release

Today at the residence of the Slovenian Ambassador in Paris, President Borut Pahor presented the Golden Order of Merit of the Republic of Slovenia to Milan Kundera, a Czech-French writer living in France, for his outstanding contribution to the understanding of Europe and the times, as well as his strong friendship with Slovenia.

Due to the recipient's illness, the award was accepted on his behalf by DDDr Evgen Bavčar, a renowned Slovenian artist and philosopher living and working in Paris, who was named European Citizen of 2016, France's Knight of the Legion of Honour, a recipient of the Republic of Slovenia's national decoration and Mr Kundera's personal friend.

Upon accepting the decoration, Mr Bavčar presented President Pahor with a personal letter from Mr Kundera and his wife, thanked him on his behalf and said a few words about the honouree.

President Pahor presents the Golden Order of Merit to Milan Kundera
Photo: Matjaž Klemenc/UPRS

Award justification:

For his outstanding contribution to the understanding of Europe and the times, as well as his strong friendship with Slovenia, Milan Kundera is awarded the Golden Order of Merit.

The Czech-French writer and cosmopolitan Milan Kundera is one of the greatest writers of our time. His work in the pivotal decades of the second half of the twentieth century had an impact that only the most keen observers of the times and people can have. In his writing, he imbued the novel as an original European literary form with a subtle aesthetic perfection, bestowing on it the noble mission of expressing the universal principles and values of the human spirit, with freedom at its core.

Milan Kundera was born in 1929 in Brno in the Czech Republic into the family of musicologist and pianist Ludvík Kundera. He learned to play the piano at an early age and later studied musicology and composition in Prague, then literature and aesthetics, and finally completed his studies at the Prague Film Academy, where he attended lectures in directing and screenwriting. After graduating in 1952, he taught world literature there.

Kundera belongs to the generation of Czechs who grew up with the horrors of the Second World War and the German occupation and had no experience of the pre-war democratic Czechoslovak Republic. The brief period of reformist optimism across Europe in 1968, which also engulfed Czechoslovakia, was interrupted by the Soviet invasion and, in 1975, Kundera travelled to France. He never returned to his homeland.

Like his country, he slowly changed the language of his work and wrote exclusively in French. When his works were banned in his homeland because of the political situation, he devoted all his creative energy to the translations of his works that had already been published, revising and correcting them, while working closely with the translators on new translations. Therefore, his translations are never a faithful mapping of the original into another language, but sometimes deviate from the original to such an extent that the author even amended the original.

Milan Kundera began publishing his works in 1953 and has, since then, received some of the highest literary prizes and awards.

During the decisive, pivotal period of Slovenian independence and the war for Slovenia, Milan Kundera staked his word and international reputation in defence of our historical and cultural specificities and political independence.

With this high national decoration, the Republic of Slovenia pays tribute to Milan Kundera and expresses its gratitude to him for his work.