Documents reveal iconic Czech novelist to be informer

 

CZECH AUTHORITIES have uncovered documents that suggest that Milan Kundera, dissident author of the seminal anti-communist novel The Unbearable Lightness of Being, denounced a former military pilot as a western spy in 1950.

Miroslav Dvoracek fled Czechoslovakia in 1949, aged 21, and returned a year later as an undercover agent after receiving US intelligence training in Germany.

On his second mission he was arrested and put on trial. In the middle of the Stalinist era, with show trials a regular occurrence, the state prosecutor demanded the death sentence for Mr Dvoracek on charges of desertion, espionage and treason.

In the end, he was sentenced to 22 years' hard labour and worked for 14 years, including a period in a uranium mine. He is now 80 years old, suffers from ill health and lives in Sweden.

Mr Dvoracek's fate hinged on a chance encounter on his return to Prague with Iva Militka, a friend from air force school in 1949. Both were training to be pilots when their dreams were shattered by the communist putsch.

Ms Militka suggested he spend the night in her student apartment and reportedly asked Kundera, a friend of hers, not to call around that evening as planned.

What happened next appears to be recorded in a yellowing document, numbered 624/1950-II, and dated March 14th, 1950, and buried in the secret police archive, administered today by the Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes.

"Student Milan Kundera, born April 1, 1929 in Brno . . . reported to our department (that another student was to meet) . . . Dvoracek, reportedly a deserter who had illegally fled to Germany."

The secret police lay in wait in Ms Militka's apartment and arrested Mr Dvoracek when he showed up.

Yesterday, Czech magazine Respektclaimed that Ms Militka has tortured herself for decades that she must have unwittlingly tipped off the police and destroyed Mr Dvoracek's life.

The claim that it was Mr Kundera behind the betrayal is likely to prompt a drastic re-evaluation of the Nobel prizewinner's reputation.

The story bears echoes of the revelation that German Nobel prizewinner Günter Grass served in the SS. Unlike Grass, however, the reclusive Kundera did not out himself and has yet to comment on the allegations.

Like many of his generation, Kundera's initial hopes in his country's communist regime, already on the wane in the 1950s, were shattered forever by the events of the Prague Spring of 1968. He was banned from working as a writer and fled to Paris.

Czech literary figures speculated whether this revelation explained his secluded exile, life and the frequent return in his work to the theme of denunciation.

The plot of his 1969 debut novel The Jokecentres on a student who pens an ironic message on a postcard, only to be denounced by his friend, expelled from university and forced to work in the mines.

Other works, including the poem The Last May(1955) and his play The Owners of the Keysalso dwell on the theme.

"Personally, I'm very disappointed," said Mr Jiri Dedecek, president the Czech Pen Club. "Reading between the lines of his work, it's clear that Kundera is telling us, 'I am guilty'. Grass's case is different because he turned into a preacher. But you cannot stand in the shit and tell other people that they smell. That was the case with Grass but fortunately not with Kundera."