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Czechs rush to buy Kundera book


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The novel that propelled Czech writer Milan Kundera to international fame - The Unbearable Lightness of Being - has become a bestseller in his homeland.

The first official Czech-language edition hit bookstores in the Czech Republic in late October, and has already sold out in many.


The book, set during the 1968 Prague Spring, was banned under the communist authorities.


Kundera, resident in France since 1975, reworked it for the Czech edition.


"It has been a bestseller since 26 October here," said Vlastimil Benes at Kanzelsberger bookshop in Prague.


"Many Czechs have not read it before - they knew about it only from the film. We've sold out now and are awaiting new copies," he told the BBC News website.


Fragile lives


The US-made 1988 film starred Daniel Day-Lewis and Juliette Binoche.


The story describes the lives of Czech artists and intellectuals caught up in the brief period of socialist reform in Czechoslovakia which ended when Soviet tanks rolled into Prague in 1968.


It focuses on the fragile nature of individual lives amid the turbulence of world events.


The book was first published in 1984 in France. Before the Czech Atlantis edition, Czechs had very restricted access to it in their own language.


The only Czech edition was released in 1985 by emigre writers Josef Skvorecky and Zdena Salivarova.


In a postscript to the new edition, Kundera says: "It was necessary to reconstruct the manuscript, partially lost, then compare it with the Skvorecky edition and above all with the French translation in which I introduced many small changes over 20 years."


He urges readers to treat it above all as a novel, not a political commentary.


Kundera was born in the Czech Republic's second city, Brno, in 1929. He studied literature and film and joined the Communist Party, but was expelled twice for political reasons.


He went into self-imposed exile abroad after a Soviet-style regime was restored in Czechoslovakia in 1968.



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