(1929- ) Czech novelist and playwright, resident in France since 1975, famous for his novels of contemporary Czechoslovakia, which ran afoul of the authorities after 1968. Although these early novels – of which the first, Zert (1967; cut trans David Hamblyn and Oliver Stallybrass as The Joke 1968 UK; restored trans Michael Henry Heim 1982 US; "definitive edition" revised MK 1992 US), is the most famous – are essentially realistic, those published after his expatriation have tended more to the condition of discours than narrative: the text braids a narrative thread with ironical auctorial commentary and, often, scenes of Fabulation. Kniha smichu a zapomneni (first publication as Le Livre du rire et de l'oubli 1979 France; trans Michael Henry Heim as The Book of Laughter and Forgetting 1980 US; Czech text 1981 Canada), although not essentially fantastic, contains levitation and the ironic evocation of Angels. Nesmrtelnost (trans Peter Kussi as Immortality 1991 US; Czech text 1993), however, less ambiguously presents an Afterlife encounter between Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961) and Goethe; and La lenteur (1995 France; trans Linda Asher as Slowness 1996 US) deals more centrally with a Timeslip encounter between its protagonist and a figure from an 18th-century novel.
In L'art du roman (1986 France; trans Asher as The Art of the Novel 1988 US) and Les Testaments trahis (1993 France; trans Asher as Testaments Betrayed: An Essay in Nine Parts 1995 US) MK describes his interest in the novel as a vehicle for poetic expression and philosophical inquiry rather than as a vessel for storytelling. This affinity is made clear in his play Jakub a jeho pan: pocta Denisi Diderotovi (1981 France in translation; trans Michael Henry Heim from the French as Jacques and His Master: An Homage to Diderot 1985; Czech text 1992). [GF]
see also: Czech Republic.