Last Updated on September 5, 2023, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 405
Largo Desolato is a semi-autobiographical play by the Czech playwright Vaclav Havel about a writer called Leopold Nettles who has come under surveillance from the government due to his political views.
The play begins with Leopold
alone on the stage. He is sitting on the sofa and staring at the front door. After a long pause he gets up and look through the peep-hole. Then he puts his ear to the door and listens intently. After another long pause the curtain drops suddenly and at the same time the music returns.
Leopold continues sitting on the sofa, listening at the door, until Edward enters in scene three and asks,
Has anything happened?
Leopold says no, but from Edward's questions, it is obvious he thinks Leopold is suffering.
How did you sleep?
How about dreams?
When Suzanna enters, she is equally worried. As soon as Leopold leaves, she asks Edward,
How is he?
Betram is a little more direct.
What happened to your perspective on things? To your humor? . . . Your capacity for enthusiasm, for emotional involvement. . . . I fear for you Leopold.
When two government agents arrive at the end of scene 4, the reader finds out that Leopold has written an essay criticizing the government. However, the government will, the agents' say, let it go, if Leopold
would sign, here and now, a short statement saying that you are not Professor Leopold Nettles, author of the paper in question, then the whole thing will be considered null and void and all previous decisions rescinded –
Much to Suzanna's disgust, he begins to consider the offer, at one point saying,
I’d rather be there than here like this! Why can’t I get my life clear! It was wonderful when nobody was interested in me—when nobody expected anything from me, nobody urging me to do anything—I just browsed around the second-hand bookshops—studying the modern philosophers at my leisure—spending the nights making notes from their works—taking walks in the parks and meditating.
At the end of the play, the agents come back to tell him that his case has been postponed. Leopold is distraught. Even if it means imprisonment, he just wants the whole saga to end.
I don't want an adjournment! I want to go there! I'm begging you—I beseech you—I can't go on living like this—
The play ends with Leopold again sitting on his sofa alone.