Czech author in exile Milan Kundera scored a bestseller in the Czech Republic with his novel The Unbearable Lightness of Being more than 20 years after it first was published and now he has won his homeland's top literary prize.

The Unbearable Lightness of Being was released in the Czech Republic in 2006, more than 22 years after it was first published.

Now Culture Minister Vaclav Jehlickahas announced Kundera is the winner of the Czech Republic's State Award for Literature, which includes a prize of $15,700.

The novel follows the fates of a group of writers and activists during the Prague Spring, a 1968 reformist movement that was suppressed by the former Soviet Union.

Kundera, who has lived in France since 1975, won critical acclamation aroundtheworld for the novel, which concludes each life is ultimately insignificant because human beings never have the chance to go back and correct their mistakes.

The first Czech version was published in 1985 by Toronto publishing house 68 Publishers, but it was not released in the Czech Republic, even after the fall of Communism, at Kundera's request.

The 2006 version released in the Czech Republic topped bestseller lists for weeks.

Kundera, 78, has not yet allowed the Czech publication of his more recent works, including Slowness, Identity and Ignorance, due to concerns over the quality of translation.

Born in Czechoslovakia, Kundera participated in the 1968 Prague Spring but left the country in the 1970s and is now a French citizen.

He has said he will not attend the prize ceremony Thursday for the Czech literature award because of unspecified health problems.

Kundera has previously won the Herder Prize and the Jerusalem Prize and been suggested as a Nobel laureate.