Other Literary Forms
Known primarily as a playwright, Václav Havel has also written criticism and poetry, plays for radio and television, and essays. Some of his poems (Antikódy, 1966) and essays, as well as his first two plays, were published as Protokoly (1966). His radio play Andl Strány was broadcast in 1968, and his television play Motýl na antén appeared in West Germany in 1975. Perhaps Havel’s most important essay is “Moc bezmocnych” (1978; “The Power of the Powerless,” 1983).
By far Havel’s most significant nondramatic work, however, is Dopisy Olze, 1979-1982 (1985; Letters to Olga, 1988), which was first published in a somewhat different version in German translation, in 1984, as Briefe an Olga: Identität und Existenz—Betrachtungen aus dem Gefängnis. (The Czech version was issued in Canada by an émigré publisher.) The title of this remarkable book is misleading: Written in prison, these are not personal letters but rather wide-ranging reflections, tracing the author’s intellectual and spiritual experience but anchored in harsh realities.
Another noteworthy nondramatic work is Dalkovy vyslech (1986; Disturbing the Peace: A Conversation with Karel Hvíala and Václav Havel, 1990). Hvíala, a noted Czech journalist in exile, wanted to interview Havel on his thoughts at turning fifty, but the politics of the time made it impossible to meet face to face. To work around this, Hvíala sent written questions for reply. Havel’s first attempt, answering in writing, came out too stiff and essaylike. Hvíala was looking for a more conversational approach, so Havel turned to a tape recorder to capture oral responses, which Hvíala subsequently transcribed.