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Vaclav Havel: Living in Truth: Twenty-Two Essays Published on the Occasion of the Award of the Erasmus Prize to Vaclav Havel

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Vaclav Havel is Czechoslovakia's leading playwright. For years he has been a victim of state repression. Now, as the spokesman of Civic Forum, he has become the international voice of the country undergoing extraordinary political change. He has been described (in The Times) as "The uncrowned King of Prague." Living In Truth is a witness to Havel's Struggle as a writer, and Vaclav Havel is Czechoslovakia's leading playwright. For years he has been a victim of state repression. Now, as the spokesman of Civic Forum, he has become the international voice of the country undergoing extraordinary political change. He has been described (in The Times) as "The uncrowned King of Prague." Living In Truth is a witness to Havel's Struggle as a writer, and the essential testament to his beliefs. Contents: pt. 1. Six texts by Václav Havel -- Letter to Dr Gustáv Husák -- The power of the powerless -- Six asides about culture -- Politics and conscience -- Thriller -- An anatomy of reticence -- pt. 2. Sixteen texts for Václav Havel -- Catastrophe / Samuel Beckett -- Courtesy towards God / Heinrich Böll -- Prague : a poem, not disappearing / Timothy Garton Ash -- Ex-prophets and storysellers / Jiří Gruša -- From Variations and reflections on topics in Václav Havel's prison letters / Ladislav Hejdánek -- Citizen versus state / Harry Järv -- The chaste centaur / Pavel Kohout -- Conversations 36 / Iva Kotralá -- Candide had to be destroyed / Milan Kundera -- I think about you a great deal / Arthur Miller -- When I was still living in Prague / Zdena Salivarová -- The sorrowful satisfaction of the powerless / Milan Šimečka -- I saw Václav Havel for the last time / Josef Škvorecký -- Introduction to The memorandum / Tom Stoppard -- Letter to a prisoner / Zdeněk Urbǎnek -- On the house / Lukvík Vaculík.


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Vaclav Havel is Czechoslovakia's leading playwright. For years he has been a victim of state repression. Now, as the spokesman of Civic Forum, he has become the international voice of the country undergoing extraordinary political change. He has been described (in The Times) as "The uncrowned King of Prague." Living In Truth is a witness to Havel's Struggle as a writer, and Vaclav Havel is Czechoslovakia's leading playwright. For years he has been a victim of state repression. Now, as the spokesman of Civic Forum, he has become the international voice of the country undergoing extraordinary political change. He has been described (in The Times) as "The uncrowned King of Prague." Living In Truth is a witness to Havel's Struggle as a writer, and the essential testament to his beliefs. Contents: pt. 1. Six texts by Václav Havel -- Letter to Dr Gustáv Husák -- The power of the powerless -- Six asides about culture -- Politics and conscience -- Thriller -- An anatomy of reticence -- pt. 2. Sixteen texts for Václav Havel -- Catastrophe / Samuel Beckett -- Courtesy towards God / Heinrich Böll -- Prague : a poem, not disappearing / Timothy Garton Ash -- Ex-prophets and storysellers / Jiří Gruša -- From Variations and reflections on topics in Václav Havel's prison letters / Ladislav Hejdánek -- Citizen versus state / Harry Järv -- The chaste centaur / Pavel Kohout -- Conversations 36 / Iva Kotralá -- Candide had to be destroyed / Milan Kundera -- I think about you a great deal / Arthur Miller -- When I was still living in Prague / Zdena Salivarová -- The sorrowful satisfaction of the powerless / Milan Šimečka -- I saw Václav Havel for the last time / Josef Škvorecký -- Introduction to The memorandum / Tom Stoppard -- Letter to a prisoner / Zdeněk Urbǎnek -- On the house / Lukvík Vaculík.

30 review for Vaclav Havel: Living in Truth: Twenty-Two Essays Published on the Occasion of the Award of the Erasmus Prize to Vaclav Havel

  1. 5 out of 5

    Eduardo Santiago

    A must-read for surviving a totalitarian regime... or, if we're lucky, avoiding one. Havel's voice is beautiful. He writes with humility and uncompromising integrity on the importance of maintaining one's principles and dignity despite oppression. He stresses the need to avoid labels like “dissident,” declaring them meaningless and easily twisted; he calls instead for living honorable goals, for speaking truth and speaking out, defining yourself in affirmative terms instead of anti-tyranny. Every A must-read for surviving a totalitarian regime... or, if we're lucky, avoiding one. Havel's voice is beautiful. He writes with humility and uncompromising integrity on the importance of maintaining one's principles and dignity despite oppression. He stresses the need to avoid labels like “dissident,” declaring them meaningless and easily twisted; he calls instead for living honorable goals, for speaking truth and speaking out, defining yourself in affirmative terms instead of anti-tyranny. Every war is unpredictably different; this coming one will be no exception. History has shown that peaceful resistance can effect surprising and (relatively) long-lasting change. Let's see how it goes.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Nick

    During the darkest of times within the Czech Republic, the country in whole was guided by the brightest of lights. Václav Havel was able to relate to the simplest of man and the highest of scholars and uniting them in hopes of creating something out of a the barren land the communists had stripped bare. Havel's essays throughout Living in Truth, are inspiring, they show insight through one of this worlds greatest visionaries perspective, humble yet so passionate about the country he so desperate During the darkest of times within the Czech Republic, the country in whole was guided by the brightest of lights. Václav Havel was able to relate to the simplest of man and the highest of scholars and uniting them in hopes of creating something out of a the barren land the communists had stripped bare. Havel's essays throughout Living in Truth, are inspiring, they show insight through one of this worlds greatest visionaries perspective, humble yet so passionate about the country he so desperately knew deserved better.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Chaundra

    I got so angry at the dearth of media coverage after Havel's death (and more specifically at the depth of coverage given to a much more wicked man) that I went through my library looking for what of his writings I owned when I came across this volume. I forget where I bought it originally, no doubt from a used bookstore somewhere, and it had gathered more dust on my own shelves with only one lone bookmark 30 pages in where no doubt I had started reading and then got distracted by something else. I got so angry at the dearth of media coverage after Havel's death (and more specifically at the depth of coverage given to a much more wicked man) that I went through my library looking for what of his writings I owned when I came across this volume. I forget where I bought it originally, no doubt from a used bookstore somewhere, and it had gathered more dust on my own shelves with only one lone bookmark 30 pages in where no doubt I had started reading and then got distracted by something else. It's an odd little volume. The first half being a selection of Havel's own more philosophical writings rather than his better known dramatic works. The second half is a set of 16 pretty random "texts for Vaclav Havel". Some are fascinating others insipid and many just plain dull. The most interesting thing about the book though is that it was compiled on the cusp of what was to be a very momentous year indeed. The whole system was on the verge if collapse and yet here it is presented as something solid, frustratingly durable. It's a rare glimpse behind the curtain while there still was a curtain without an embarrassing prologue excusing it all away.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Mantell

    This is a series of essays about personal honesty and life in a totalitarian state (Czechoslovakia under Communism). What optimism and belief in humanity to predict that Communism had to pass! "Vitality cannot be suppressed forever. A secret streamlet trickles on beneath the heavy crust of inertia and bureaucratic pseudo-events, slowly undermining it. It may take a long time, but one day it must happen. The ice can no longer hold and begins to crack." This is a series of essays about personal honesty and life in a totalitarian state (Czechoslovakia under Communism). What optimism and belief in humanity to predict that Communism had to pass! "Vitality cannot be suppressed forever. A secret streamlet trickles on beneath the heavy crust of inertia and bureaucratic pseudo-events, slowly undermining it. It may take a long time, but one day it must happen. The ice can no longer hold and begins to crack."

  5. 4 out of 5

    P

    "The Power of the Powerless" is worth reading alone, but Havel's musings on being a dissident, the importance of culture, and the stories about Havel from people as diverse as Arthur Miller and Milan Kundera make this book worth reading. "The Power of the Powerless" is worth reading alone, but Havel's musings on being a dissident, the importance of culture, and the stories about Havel from people as diverse as Arthur Miller and Milan Kundera make this book worth reading.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Bagus

    Václav Havel as the first post-communist president of Czechoslovakia and later the first president of Czech Republic has brought into world attention his philosophy in this book: living in truth. His essays in this book are central into understanding the state of affairs in Eastern Europe during the Cold War, and especially in Czechoslovak Socialist Republic (CSSR). Havel actually came from a background that is far from the traditionalist sense of politics, he was a poet-playwright. And while li Václav Havel as the first post-communist president of Czechoslovakia and later the first president of Czech Republic has brought into world attention his philosophy in this book: living in truth. His essays in this book are central into understanding the state of affairs in Eastern Europe during the Cold War, and especially in Czechoslovak Socialist Republic (CSSR). Havel actually came from a background that is far from the traditionalist sense of politics, he was a poet-playwright. And while living as a playwright who in his daily life writes plays, he encountered unrest in his mind. That he and his other fellow artists in Czechoslovakia at that time, could not express themselves freely in their artistic expressions due to the limitations set by the communist regime. This was despite himself originally not actively opposed the regime, he constantly found himself in opposition with the people in power just by trying to express his artistic ideas which he thought should be free from repressions. And thus, Havel began his telltale about dissidents and what they really want. His main notion is that dissidents are not people who actually oppose the political system at that time, but rather they are just people who want to live in truth and express themselves freely as what has been the tradition in European Humanist views. And on the way to express themselves, they found themselves labelled with the term opposition by the regime. I find that his essays as eye-opener to me, to get a glimpse inside the life in a former Eastern Bloc country. And it surely took great courage to write something like what Havel had put into words in this book, where the possible consequences might be prison sentence or execution. It's a sad story that he could not stop Czechoslovakia from disintegrating into Czech Republic and Slovakia in 1992, while in the same year the Treaty of Maastricht was signed forming the European Union, an eventuality which I think has made borders between countries becoming less relevant and amid the ongoing globalisation. Nevertheless, this collection of essays have recorded Havel's thoughts and philosophy in addressing the repression of communist regime in Czechoslovakia. His way of explaining ideas is unique in the sense that he does not only use political terms and economic data, but he also incorporates humanist ideas into his essays. He cited a lot of quotes from Jan Patocka and Franz Kafka, two philosophers from Prague who have been great influences in his idea in conquering post-totaliarianism.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Michael Smith

    Excellent essays (22) on the human spirit and the power of Truth. Even in totalitarian conditions, the power of the people comes from the final expulsion of the status quo by ones and twos who begin to find each other and reject the superficiality of political sloganeering that is felt by many but suppress it due to a subtle form of fear. The quiet compliance or acquiescence of the average citizen to political will can be undermined by people who decide "I'm not going to take it anymore!" It is Excellent essays (22) on the human spirit and the power of Truth. Even in totalitarian conditions, the power of the people comes from the final expulsion of the status quo by ones and twos who begin to find each other and reject the superficiality of political sloganeering that is felt by many but suppress it due to a subtle form of fear. The quiet compliance or acquiescence of the average citizen to political will can be undermined by people who decide "I'm not going to take it anymore!" It is an interesting read to see what Havel was saying in the 1970s and the results of people finally deciding to "live in truth" inside the soviet influenced system of his contemporary Czechoslovakia. I found some common ground for my own life as well. I'm especially fond of the essay titled "The power of the powerless".

  8. 5 out of 5

    Jaindoh

    I admit that I didn't have time to read the full text before I had to send the book back to the library, but the excerpts that I flicked through - both Havel's own writing in Part 1 and the pieces written to/for him in Part 2 (including Samuel Beckett's 'Catastrophe', Arthur Miller's 'I Think About You A Great Deal' and Milan Kundera 'Candide Had To Be Destroyed') I found thoroughly thought-provoking and a good insight into Czech culture and psyche. I admit that I didn't have time to read the full text before I had to send the book back to the library, but the excerpts that I flicked through - both Havel's own writing in Part 1 and the pieces written to/for him in Part 2 (including Samuel Beckett's 'Catastrophe', Arthur Miller's 'I Think About You A Great Deal' and Milan Kundera 'Candide Had To Be Destroyed') I found thoroughly thought-provoking and a good insight into Czech culture and psyche.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Yang

    Quote: [the ethical work] offers a ready answer to any question whatsoever. It can scarcely be accepted only in part, and accepting it has profound implications for human life . . . all one has to do is accept it, and suddenly everything becomes clear once more, life takes on new meaning, and all mysteries, unanswered questions, anxiety, and loneliness vanish . . . . (Havel, Living in Truth, 1983: 38–39).

  10. 5 out of 5

    Saul Hudacin

    incredible

  11. 4 out of 5

    Bronwen

    I picked up this book to read Havel's essay "The Power of the Powerless", written in 1978. I recommend it. I picked up this book to read Havel's essay "The Power of the Powerless", written in 1978. I recommend it.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Meganhayes

    About socialism

  13. 5 out of 5

    Sharad

    I guess this was supposed to speak to me but as a pampered east-west digerati, I'm probably just too far removed from the perspective. I guess this was supposed to speak to me but as a pampered east-west digerati, I'm probably just too far removed from the perspective.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Alli Jo

  15. 4 out of 5

    Charles

  16. 4 out of 5

    Ricardo Garcia lambarry

  17. 5 out of 5

    Bill

  18. 4 out of 5

    Radovan Kavický

  19. 4 out of 5

    Anna

  20. 4 out of 5

    Marek Haas

  21. 4 out of 5

    El

  22. 5 out of 5

    Renee Early

  23. 4 out of 5

    Johnathan

  24. 4 out of 5

    Lenka Štíplová

  25. 4 out of 5

    Susan

  26. 5 out of 5

    Seungchan Yun

  27. 5 out of 5

    Ellie

  28. 4 out of 5

    Julian Gallo

  29. 4 out of 5

    Ssokolov

  30. 5 out of 5

    Hanka Šmídová

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