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Kundera Receives Czech Literary Award

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October 22, 2007 02:48 PM EST | AP

PRAGUE, Czech Republic — Milan Kundera has won the Czech Republic's State Award for Literature for the first publication of his novel "The Unbearable Lightness of Being" in his former home country.

Kundera wrote a letter to Culture Minister Vaclav Jehlicka expressing thanks for the award, which includes a $15,700 prize, the ministry's spokeswoman Marcela Zizkova said Monday.

Kundera also said he would not be able to attend Thursday's ceremony to pick up the award due to unspecified health problems, Zizkova said.

The 1984 novel was first published in the Czech Republic last year, and it topped the best-seller list for weeks.

Kundera was born in Czechoslovakia in 1929. Since 1975, he has been living in France where he published his books, including "The Book of Laughter and Forgetting," "The Unbearable Lightness of Being," "The Art of the Novel" and "Immortality." He was granted French citizenship in 1981.

Kundera, concerned about the quality of translation, has not yet allowed the Czech publication of his more recent works, including "Slowness," "Identity" and "Ignorance."