The Unbearable Weight of Paternity, in Milan Kundera's Fiction


February 22, 2017 , 7:00 PM

[3rd Floor]

A presentation by Christopher Harwood. Since Milan Kundera first began publishing prose fiction in the 1960s, his provocative and often comic depictions of human sexual behavior have drawn thousands of readers to his work, but they have also earned him the labels of sexist, misogynist and male chauvinist from many critics. This presentation examines the related theme in Kundera’s fiction of the uneasy relationship between men and their real or hypothetical offspring. In surveying several examples of problematic fatherhood and paternity-avoidance in Kundera’s novels, it relates the dread of procreation to an Existentialist stance of embracing freedom and authenticity. In the process, it also explores some key philosophical and aesthetic categories in Kundera’s fiction which extend beyond the theme of fatherhood.

Christopher Harwood, PhD, has been Lecturer in Czech in the Slavic Department of Columbia University since 2001. He also works occasionally as a freelance translator (from Czech and Russian to English) and interpreter (between Czech and English). His professional interests focus on methods for teaching Czech as a foreign language and on 20th- and 21st-century Czech literature and culture. In various contexts over the years, he has taught Czech, English, German and Russian as foreign languages. He holds BA (1990), MA (1992) and PhD (2000) degrees in Russian literature from Columbia University.

Open to the public. Suggested donation $5. For more information, please visit

Organized by: SVU New York, BBLA