Havel, Václav (Vol. 123)
Václav Havel 1936–
Czechoslovakian dramatist, essayist, and poet.
The following entry presents an overview of Havel's career through 1997. For further information on his life and works, see CLC, Volumes 25, 58, and 65.
An internationally renowned Czechoslovakian statesman and champion of human rights, Václav Havel is among the most important East European dissident writers of the Cold War period. His relentless political activism and avant-garde plays established him as a leading voice of protest against the repressive communist government of Czechoslovakia during the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s. A frequent political prisoner whose writings were banned in his native country, Havel resisted totalitarianism in influential essays, speeches, and popular underground plays. As a dramatist, he is best known for Zahradní slavnost (1963; The Garden Party) and the trilogy of "Vanek" plays performed during the 1970s. Associated with the Theatre of the Absurd, his satiric dramas caricature the dehumanizing conditions of political tyranny and technocratic society. Havel was elected president of Czechoslovakia in 1989 after sweeping democratic reforms dissolved the nation's communist regime. A charismatic folk hero and public intellectual, Havel is recognized worldwide as a leading humanitarian and political visionary.
Born in Prague, Czechoslovakia, Havel spent his formative years under Nazi Occupation and Stalinist hegemony. The son of a wealthy industrialist and property owner, he was denied access to a higher education in keeping with the communists's program to disenfranchise members of the bourgeoisie. Havel worked as an apprentice in a chemical laboratory while in school and, beginning in 1951, as a laboratory technician. Over the next several years he attended evening classes to earn a secondary degree in 1954. Havel studied economics at the Czech University of Technology from 1955 to 1957, during which time he published his first essays on literary topics. In 1959, after completing two years of compulsory military service, Havel found work as a stagehand for Divadlo ABC (the ABC Theatre of Prague). The next year he moved to Divadlo na zábradli (Theatre on the Balustrade), where he initially worked as a stagehand, then as a secretary, manuscript reader, and literary manager from 1963 to 1968. In 1961, Havel collaborated with Ivan Vyskocil, artistic director of Theatre on the Balustrade, to produce his first play, Autostop (1961; Hitchhike). Havel's first full-length independent play, The Garden Party, premiered in 1963, followed by Vyrozumení (1965; The Memorandum), winner of an Obie (Off-Broadway) Award, and Ztizená moznost soustredení (1968; The Increased Difficulty of Concentration)—all produced at Theatre on the Balustrade. He also published Protokoly (1966; Protocols), a collection of his early drama, essays, and poetry. While working and writing for the theater, Havel studied drama at the Academy of Art in Prague from 1962 to 1967. He married Olga Splichalova in 1964. During the "Prague Spring" of 1968, Havel was a leading activist for artistic freedom and democratic reforms. With the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in August 1968, Havel's works were banned and he was subjected to repeated arrests, periods of imprisonment, and more than a decade of virtual house arrest. During the 1970s he remained an outspoken advocate for human and civil rights. He was a contributor to Charter 77, a human rights manifesto made public in 1977, for which he was incarcerated for four months. In 1978, Havel founded the Committee for the Defense of the Unjustly Persecuted (VONS), leading to another six-month imprisonment. Havel also wrote several plays for underground circulation, including Spiklenci (1970; The Conspirators), Zebrácká opera (1975), an adaptation of The Beggar's Opera, Audience (1975), Vernisáz (1975; Private View), Horsky hotel (1976; The Mountain Hotel), and Protest (1978). For continued acts of political protest, Havel was sentenced to four and a half years imprisonment in 1979. Upon his early release in 1983, he produced Dopisy Olze (1983; Letters to Olga), a collection of letters written to his wife while imprisoned; Dálkovy vyslech (1986; Disturbing the Peace), an interview with Czech journalist Karel Hvizdala in which Havel discusses his childhood, literary career, and political experiences; Václav Havel, or Living in Truth (1987), which contains six essays by Havel—notably "The Power of the Powerless" and "Politics and Conscience"—along with texts in honor of Havel by Samuel Beckett, Heinrich Böll, Tom Stoppard, Milan Kundera, and Arthur Miller; and the plays Pokouseni (1985; Temptation) and Largo Desolato (1986), both of which won Obie awards. After two years of intensified protest and labor strikes, in 1989 Czechoslovakia renounced its communist government for new democratic elections. Havel was unanimously appointed interim president by the Czechoslovakia Parliament in December 1989 and officially elected president in 1990. Havel resigned the presidency in 1992 to protest the imminent division of Czechoslovakia into Slovakia and the Czech Republic. He was elected president of the new Czech Republic the same year. His political views and experiences are recorded in Open Letters (1991), which contains essays dating from 1965 to January 1990, Summer Meditations (1992), and The Art of the Impossible (1997).
Havel's dramatic works are dominated by themes of alienation, malcommunication, betrayal, and the search for identity and truth. According to Havel in Disturbing the Peace, his plays are intended to portray "modern humanity in a 'state of crisis.'" Influenced by the writings of Albert Camus and Samuel Beckett, Havel's early absurdist comedies expose the ineptitude and depersonalization of bureaucratic institutions. In The Garden Party protagonist Hugo Pludek pursues a position at the Office of Liquidation through Orwellian doublespeak and linguistic contrivance. A shrewd careerist who easily assimilates party platitudes and clichés, Pludek eventually becomes the director of two agencies—the Office of Liquidation and the Office of Inauguration. However, an attempt to eliminate the Office of Liquidation raises an intractable dilemma, since only the Office of Liquidation can dissolve itself and once terminated would no longer exist to complete the process. Alluding to the structure of a chess game, Pludek's paradoxical checkmate signifies his compromised self-identity as a pawn of the nonsensical system. The Memorandum further examines the alienating effect of bureaucratic discourse. The plot involves Josef Gross, an office manager who attempts to decode an official document written in "Ptydepe," a new scientific language designed to banish ambiguity and emotion from human communication. Gross's efforts to decipher the incomprehensible memorandum are harried by irrational bureaucratic policies and a manipulative underling who has him demoted. Gross eventually convinces Maria, a secretary, to translate the memo which, ironically, is revealed to be itself a directive for the elimination of "Ptydepe" as an ineffective language. The Increased Difficulty of Concentration involves Dr. Eduard Huml, a social scientist who attempts to balance conflicting obligations to his wife and mistresses. While participating in a farcical computer experiment and composing a lecture on the complexity of modern life, Huml's personal life is increasingly complicated by multiple sexual infidelities that reveal his flawed personality. Havel's "Vanek" trilogy consists of the one-act plays Audience, Private View, and Protest. Each of the three plays is connected by the semiautobiographic protagonist Ferdinand Vanek, a dissident writer who witnesses the degrading forces of corruption, false ideology, and socioeconomic coercion. In Audience Vanek works in a brewery where the drunken head malter pressures him to write weekly reports on himself for the secret police in exchange for lighter work. Vanek refuses to assist the government that he openly opposes by betraying himself, demonstrating the inviolable principles of the artist in contrast to the malter's demoralization. In Private View, Vanek visits Michael and Vera, a superficial couple who have sacrificed moral consciousness for material advantage and social respectability. While proudly displaying their newly redecorated apartment, they espouse the conditioned values of Western consumerism and chastise Vanek for his stubborn idealism and alleged cowardice. In Protest, Vanek is approached by Stanek, a noncommittal fellow writer, to draft a protest letter on behalf of an imprisoned rock star who is involved with his daughter. When Vanek presents the document for Stanek's approval, Stanek loses his nerve and launches into a convoluted debate through which he affirms the status quo and dismisses his obligation to act. In the end, Stanek learns that the rock star is released and protest is unnecessary. In all of the "Vanek" plays, Vanek's self-effacement and humble integrity offer a foil for the sophistry and duplicity of those he encounters. Temptation is Havel's interpretation of the Faust myth in which Dr. Foustka's occult meddlings reveal the evil of instrumental truth and postmodern relativism. Largo Desolato centers upon the existential crisis of Professor Leopold Nettles, a persecuted intellectual who must renounce a controversial passage that he has written by denying its authorship. Confined to his apartment—a symbolic prison cell—to contemplate authority and subjectivity. Nettles's becomes consumed with self-doubt regarding his identity and the possibility of truth.
Havel is widely praised as an uncompromising artist, human rights activist, and leader of democratic reforms in Czechoslovakia. Though best known for his political activities and message of hope, Havel's dramatic works are highly regarded as provocative commentaries on life in a totalitarian state. The majority of critical attention is directed at The Garden Party, The Memorandum, the "Vanek" trilogy, and Largo Desolato, generally considered his most effective plays. The Garden Party remains Havel's most popular and acclaimed literary work. Critics frequently comment on the significance of distorted language, moral abdication, and lost self-identity in Havel's parodies of oppressive sociopolitical structures. In addition to the absurdist influence of Camus, Beckett, and Eugene Ionesco, many critics compare Havel's bureaucratic nightmares to those depicted in the writings of fellow Czech-born author Franz Kafka. Critics also note Havel's philosophical debt to Martin Heidegger and existentialist Jean-Paul Sartre. Though recognized as one of Eastern Europe's most important playwrights, some critics question Havel's literary accomplishment when measured against his contemporary Western counterparts. The reluctance of some Western critics to judge Havel's writing is attributed to fear that unfavorable evaluation of his literature may jeopardize his political stature. Havel's affinity for existentialism and outmoded theatrical devices of the 1960s, cited by some as a weakness in his work, is indicative of the cultural stagnation under the East Bloc regime Havel strove to overcome. Despite such qualifications, most critics view Havel's plays and essays as forceful philosophical statements on the degrading conditions of authoritarianism and the moral responsibilities of dissenters.
Autostop [with Ivan Vyskocil; Hitchhike] (drama) 1961
Zahradní slavnost [The Garden Party] (drama) 1963
Vyrozumení [The Memorandum] (drama) 1965
Protokoly [Protocols] (drama, essays, and poetry) 1966
Ztizená moznost soustredení [The Increased Difficulty of Concentration] (drama) 1968
Spiklenci [The Conspirators] (drama) 1970
Audience (drama) 1975
Vernisáz [Private View; also translated as Unveiling] (drama) 1975
Zebrácká opera [adaptor; from the drama The Beggar's Opera by John Gay] (drama) 1975
Horsky hotel [The Mountain Hotel; also translated as A Hotel in the Hills] (drama) 1976
Protest (drama) 1978
Dopisy Olze [Letters to Olga: June 1979 to September 1982] (correspondence) 1983
A Private View [contains Audience, Private View, and Protest] (drama) 1983
Pokouseni [Temptation] (drama) 1985
Dálkovy vyslech [Disturbing the Peace: A Conversation with Karel Hvizdala] (interviews) 1986
Largo Desolato (drama) 1986
Václav Havel, or Living in Truth [with others] (essays) 1987
The Vanek Plays: Four Authors, One Character [contains Audience, Private View, and Protest] (drama) 1987
Open Letters: Selected Writings (essays) 1991
Summer Meditations (essays) 1992
The Art of the...
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SOURCE: "One Can Stand Up to Lies," in New York Times Book Review, May 26, 1991, p. 5.
[In the following review, Howe offers positive assessment of Open Letters. "We turn to Havel," Howe writes, "not for theoretical innovation but for the consolidation of truth."]
There is a pleasing anecdote about Vaclav Havel, perhaps true, perhaps not. During the years he was being hounded by the Stalinist dictatorship in Czechoslovakia, he would spend part of his time in the country, watched day and night by the secret police. Once, a policeman is supposed to have said to him: "Why go back to Prague? Why don't you remain in the country, where we have such a nice, quiet life together?" Intuitively, this policeman had come to grasp the moral power of the writer he was watching.
For there is a mystery to Mr. Havel. Now the President of his country and, before that, a leading dissident spokesman and playwright, he has come to occupy a special place in our imaginations. We think of him as … well, an unheroic hero. Open Letters, his new collection of writings, which range from the time of his first hesitant statements in 1965 to the soberly triumphant inaugural address of January 1990, can be read as a political history in miniature. Yet I found myself more deeply interested in Mr. Havel as a phenomenon—the writer as popular leader—than in the events he charts. Others have written...
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SOURCE: "Fictional World and Dramatic Text: Václav Havel's Descent and Ascent," in Style, Vol. 25, No. 2, Summer, 1991, pp. 310-9.
[In the following essay, Ambros examines the interplay of fictional constructs, representations of reality, and dialogue in The Garden Party.]
Because the theory of fictional worlds concentrates primarily on narratology, work on drama is rare. The reason for this lack of interest lies in the very nature of the theater, which involves the audience's entering an "as if" world. This characteristic of a theater performance is attributed almost automatically to the text of drama. So, for instance, the construction of the dramatic world in the rendition of Keir Elam presupposes a spectator; it is more the world of theater than that of written drama which he has in mind. Moreover his elements of a fictional dramatic world, such as "a set of physical properties, a set of agents and a course of time-bound events," are not distinctive features of drama as a literary text. Elam's elements suggest that the fictional world of drama is similar to that of narrative. Yet, as I will point out, the dramatic text enjoys a unique position among literary genres. Its two layers, the dialogical and the extradialogical discourse, mark its special structures and provide distinctive devices for creating a dramatic fictional world. And it is theater that combines both textual and extratextual features...
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SOURCE: "Contemporary World Drama 101: Václav Havel," in Thought, Vol. 66, No. 262, September, 1991, pp. 317-28.
[In the following essay, Carey provides an overview of Havel's literary career, major works, and critical reception.]
The performance of Vaclav Havel as Czech President since December 1989 has thus far met with mixed reviews from Western observers. But Western fascination with the popular and colorful Havel himself remains high as he continues to play a key role on the center stage of Czechoslovakia. English translations of Havel's political writing, his letters from prison, and his drama have rapidly appeared in book stores. So far a representative sampling is readily available; it is more than enough to whet the appetite. Most provocatively from a Western perspective, Havel's writings suggest that the drama that continues to unfold in Eastern bloc countries has the power to reveal to the West "its own latent tendencies" (Living in Truth). As the Iron Curtain continues to rise, the spectators of the West may glimpse, if Havel the philosophic playwright-president is to be believed, a reflection of themselves on the other side.
Havel insists that in all of his writings his starting point is his own experience. The events of his life have provided recurring themes for both his plays and his essays. Born in 1936 into a bourgeois...
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SOURCE: "Delirious Subjectivity: Four Scenes from Havel," in Essays in Theatre, Vol. 10, No. 2, May, 1992, pp. 117-32.
[In the following essay, Quinn explores delirium, namely in the form of misunderstanding and confusion, in Havel's dramatic works. According to Quinn, Havel typically incorporates elements of delirium to evoke irony and satire.]
Setting the Stage: The Negative Concept of Delirium
One of the most interesting products of the contemporary critical focus on semiotics in the formation of subjectivity is the "negative theory" of delirium. Unlike an ordinary analytic theory, which tries to construct coherent references, delirium involves a theory of mistaken references, of incoherence; as a supplement to theories of communication, which are designed to explain how we keep messages straight, this theory explains how sense gets lost, and the interesting things that happen when people lose it.
As a theory of confusion, delirium has several uses, especially philosophical, psychoanalytic and aesthetic ones. As it has emerged in deconstructive philosophical writing, it provides an occasional tropology for the slippage of signs in relation to their conventional functions. For some psychoanalytic theorists delirium is a political solution, a valorized term that opens the utopian prospect of free play to the searching eyes of the anxious subject. In this...
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SOURCE: "Living Lies: Václav Havel's Drama," in Cross Currents, Vol. 42, No. 2, Summer, 1992, pp. 200-11.
[In the following essay, Carey provides an overview of Havel's creative periods and major dramatic works.]
Americans were captivated by the 1989 election of Vaclav Havel, a human rights activist who spent almost four years in prison, as the first president of post-communist Czechoslovakia. Many who had heard that his ideas had played a vital role in the country's "Velvet Revolution" were introduced to his thinking through interviews, particularly the extended dialogue in Disturbing the Peace, as well as occasional pieces in the New York Review of Books. They learned even more from the philosophical-political essays of Living in Truth, and from Letters to Olga, the collection of fascinating, philosophical letters Havel wrote to his wife while he was in prison. Havel's political writings emphasize, among a great many other things, the "power of the powerless," the ability of seemingly impotent individuals to transform their societies through assuming responsibility for their humanity and living in truth.
Fewer Americans have been introduced to Havel's dramatic oeuvre, which provides a fascinating counterpoint to his philosophical and political thought. His plays, which have earned an international reputation and have won several awards in the U.S., were...
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SOURCE: A review of The Vanek Plays and Living in Truth, in Slavic Review, Vol. 51, No. 2, Summer, 1992, pp. 348-51.
[In the following review, Thomas offers positive assessment of Living in Truth and The Vanek Plays. According to Thomas, Havel's dramatic works "are more complex, darker studies of the human spirit than the Czech tradition of 'humanist' criticism would suppose."]
Predating the tumultuous political events of 1989, both volumes here under review—one a collection of political essays by the playwright Václav Havel, the other an anthology of plays by Czech dissident writers including Havel—can and should be assessed in the light of subsequent events. It would be facile to claim that these books have become outdated by the political changes in central Europe; rather, Havel's essays, contained in Living in Truth, form a continuity with President Havel's more recent pronouncements on the fortunes of his country as it evolves into a democratic, pluralist state.
Living in Truth consists of six seminal essays by Havel himself (including "Letter to Dr. Gustáv Husák," "The Power of the Powerless" and "Politics and Conscience") and sixteen additional works of homage to Havel by writers as diverse as Samuel Beckett, Heinrich Böll, Jirí Grusa, Pavel Kohout, Milan Kundera, Ludvík Vaculík, Arthur Miller and Timothy Garton Ash. The need...
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SOURCE: "Keeping the Faith," in New York Review of Books, September 24, 1992, pp. 3-4.
[In the following review, Kennan offers favorable assessment of Summer Meditations, praising Havel's courage to "offer to the public so unsparingly an exposure of what one can only call his political and personal philosophy."]
Václav Havel, the courageous leading dissident in the years of Communist control of Czechoslovakia, and more recently president of that country, needs no introduction to the readers of The New York Review. His name has appeared on the pages of the Review in a number of capacities. Known originally primarily as a playwright, Havel has always been a prolific and engaging writer. His literary output in later years has taken exclusively the form of essays, letters, and unpublished interviews; and after his release from prison in 1983, several volumes of English translations of such materials saw publication, prior to the appearances of the volume here under review.
With very minor exceptions, the materials contained in those volumes were written during the Communist period of Czechoslovak history and reflected Havel's preoccupation with the tremendous strains that rested upon his life and those of so many others in those tragic years. The volume to which this present discussion is devoted was written in the summer of 1991 and reviewed by the author in early...
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SOURCE: "Václav Havel: The Once and Future Playwright," in Kenyon Review, Vol. 15, No. 2, pp. 223-31.
[In the following essay, Skloot considers the literary accomplishment of Havel's drama in relation to the works of Harold Pinter, Tom Stoppard, Eugene Ionesco, and Samuel Beckett.]
In the short space of a few years, we have been witness to a Havel industry. Images of the Czech playwright-politician appear frequently in the West, and his words are quoted often whenever democrats of all kinds convene. His life is held up as an example of resistance to the tyrant's authority and the terrors of the state, and he is celebrated by those who have suffered brutal indignities as well as by those who have suffered not at all.
In 1992, with the fragmentation of his bipartite nation and the loss of his presidency, the simple fact of his unwavering commitment to human rights and to policies of tolerance and trust has introduced into the politics of the 1990s new spirit of both personal courage and political resolve. The mention of Havel's name is, for most observers, an occasion to chart the possibilities of changing old, repressive, tribal ways for new, humane ones, an exercise all the more needed as neighboring countries hemorrhage in an agony of self-destruction. In this essay, I want to explore the nature of political Havelism by temporarily disengaging it from the newspaper headlines and...
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SOURCE: "The Poet as President," in Progressive, Vol. 57, No. 4, April, 1993, pp. 40-3.
[In the following review, Knoll offers favorable assessment of Open Letters, Summer Meditations, and Living in Truth. Knoll praises Havel's "literate, profound, and humane essays."]
When I talked with Czechs about Václav Havel during a brief visit to Prague last fall, I was surprised to find that many did not share the esteem and enthusiasm with which their illustrious compatriot is so widely regarded in the West. Havel had just resigned as president of Czechoslovakia so that he would not have to preside over the dissolution of his country. He would return in a few months to head the new, truncated Czech Republic. His symbol-rich exit from the Prague Castle—wearing a T-shirt, carrying a backpack—had made more of an impression elsewhere in Europe (and in the United States) than at home.
Czechs criticized Havel for not fighting hard enough against the breakup, after seventy-four years, of Czechoslovakia. (I heard this, curiously, even from some who claimed not to care about Slovak independence and who said, dismissively. "Let them go!") Other Czechs—or, sometimes, the same ones—complained that Havel had deepened the nation's economic crisis by dismantling much of its arms industry and curtailing overseas weapons sales. And the most virulent attacks focused on Havel's opposition...
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SOURCE: "Time, Identity and Being: The World of Václav Havel," in Twentieth-Century European Drama, edited by Brian Docherty, St. Martin's Press, 1994, pp. 172-82.
[In the following essay, Majer examines the influence of totalitarian oppression and imprisonment on Havel's existentialist concept of time, individual identity, and the possibility of meaning in his dramatic works.]
In his first speech to the Federal Assembly in Prague (25 January 1990), playwright Václav Havel, in his new role as President of the Republic of Czechoslovakia, focused on the phenomenon of time:
In my offices in the Prague Castle, I did not find one single clock. To me, that has a symbolic meaning: for long years, there was no reason to look at clocks, because time had stood still. History had come to a halt, not only in the Prague Castle but in the whole country. So much faster does it roll forward now that we have at long last freed ourselves from the paralysing straitjacket of the totalitarian system. Time has speeded up.
As Guillaume Apollinaire notes, in his poem, 'La Zone', 'les aiguilles de l'horloge du quartier juif vont à rebours'. The clock in the Prague Jewish quarter, at the Jewish Town Hall tower, moves backward, as if symbolising—poetically as well as historically—the absurd movement of time: no longer forward, no longer even static,...
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SOURCE: "Female Victims and the Male Protagonist in Václav Havel's Drama," in Modern Drama, Vol. 40, No. 4, Winter, 1997, pp. 468-76.
[In the following essay, Meche discusses the role of subordinate or victimized women in Havel's drama as a symbolic foil for deficient male protagonists.]
Václav Havel's recent rise to political power in the now-dissolved Czechoslovak Republic has only confirmed some critics' contentions that Havel's dramatic works are all basically political in origin and theme. These critics' beliefs are supported by some striking similarities in many of Havel's plays; the bureaucracies that are often seen as thinly veiled representations of totalitarian regimes, for example, are present in or alluded to in all of Havel's major works beginning with The Garden Party (1963) and ending with Temptation (1985). But while the existence of these bureaucratic systems and the protagonists' struggle to retain their personal identity in their dealings with such systems may suggest a political theme, they by no means limit Havel's plays to political matters. The appeal of Havel's plays in the West—especially in the United States, where threats of totalitarianism are distant—seems to suggest that these works hold within themselves something beyond their political content, something capable of capturing the attention of a large portion of the Western hemisphere.
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SOURCE: "Interpreting Václav Havel," in Cross Currents, Vol. 47, No. 3, Fall, 1997, pp. 301-16.
[In the following essay, Capps examines Havel's artistic and philosophical development in the context of Czechoslovakian intellectual tradition and contemporary politics.]
Though the intellectual and academic worlds haven't caught full sight of it yet, we are standing on the threshold of a new era in thought, idea, and cultural construction. This new era has been made possible by the ending of a prolonged Cold War, and the sudden, unexpected opportunity to learn how the people of Eastern bloc nations sustained themselves culturally and spiritually during the time of their subjection to totalitarian forces. For most of the Cold War period, philosophical and artistic expression in Marxist countries was neither widely known nor acknowledged in the western world. Since the appropriate evidence was not readily available, it was too easy to assume that not much of significance was happening.
Yet, one can quickly appreciate how untrue such an assumption is. Human nature being human nature, there is never a time or circumstance that does not produce ideas or cultural expressions. Indeed, many of the most profound ideas and the most stirring expressions have been created during times of greatest social, political, and economic unrest, and by those who were the most seriously affected. We learn about...
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SOURCE: "Philosopher President," in Commonweal, October 24, 1997, pp. 23-4.
[In the following review, Elshtain offers a positive evaluation of The Art of the Impossible.]
President Václav Havel of the Czech Republic is one of the great spokesmen for the "return to Europe" of countries formerly compelled to inhabit that political nowhereland called "Eastern Europe." He is an urbane intellectual, a playwright, and a moralist. That he is also the president of a nation-state is for him one of life's great ironies, even miracles, and he claims that he can scarcely believe it most of the time: one day an infamous dissident slated for harassment and incarceration; the next a famous dissident addressing hundreds of thousands gathered in Wenceslaus Square in defiance of a corrupt, authoritarian regime; and then a bit further on, the president of (then) Czechoslovakia proclaiming, on January 1, 1990: "People, your government has returned to you!"
It has not been an easy return. Havel knew it would not be. In October 1992, in a conversation with a small group gathered in Prague, Havel was sober to the point of being somber. The two republics were breaking up. The process of crafting a new constitution was then frustrated—so much so that Havel declared that he felt rather like locking up a group of clever constitutional lawyers and not permitting them to leave the building until they had forged...
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Bradbrook, M. C. "Václav Havel's Second Wind." Modern Drama 27, No. 1 (March 1984): 124-32.
Provides an overview of Havel's dramatic works and literary influences.
Procházka, Martin. "Prisoner's Predicament: Public Privacy in Havel's Letters to Olga." Representations 43 (Summer 1993): 126-54.
Examines Havel's philosophical meditations and elements of public discourse in Letters to Olga.
Trensky, Paul I. "Havel's The Garden Party Revisited." In Czech Literature Since 1956: A Symposium, edited by William E. Harkins and Paul I. Trensky, pp. 103-18. New York: Bohemica, 1980.
Offers critical analysis of The Garden Party.
Emingerová, Dana, and Lubos Beniak. "'Uncertain Strength': An Interview With Václav Havel." New York Review of Books (15 August 1991): 6, 8.
Havel discusses his presidential experiences, literary interests, and Czechoslovakian politics.
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