One of the foremost contemporary Czech writers, Kundera is a novelist, poet, and playwright. His play The Keeper of the Keys, produced in Czechoslovakia in 1962, has long been performed in a dozen countries. His first novel, The Joke (1967), is a biting satire on the political atmosphere in Czechoslovakia in the 1950s. It tells the story of a young Communist whose life is ruined because of a minor indiscretion: writing a postcard to his girlfriend in which he mocks her political fervor.The Joke has been translated into a dozen languages and was made into a film, which Kundera wrote and directed. His novel Life Is Elsewhere won the 1973 Prix de Medicis for the best foreign novel. Kundera has been living in France since 1975. His books, for a long time suppressed in his native country, are once again published.The Unbearable Lightness of Being (1984), won him international fame and was a successful English-language film. In this work Kundera moves toward more universal and philosophically tinged themes, thus transforming himself from a political dissident into a writer of international significance.
Denis Diderot was a French philosopher and critic during the Age of Enlightenment. Born in 1713 in Langres, France, Diderot was educated at the University of Paris. From 1745 to 1772 he served as editor of L'Encyclopedie, which he fashioned as a journal of radical revolutionary opinion. He was a leader in the movement to challenge both church and state by furthering knowledge. Diderot also wrote several critical and philosophical works including Pensees sur l'interpretation de la nature (Thoughts on the Interpretation of Nature, 1754). In addition, he published essays based on personal experience, as well as several plays. He is recognized now as an art critic of the first rank. His Essai sur la peinture (Essay on Painting, 1796) won him posthumous praise as a critic of painting technique and aesthetics. He died in Paris in 1784.