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Disturbing the Peace


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V clav Havel was born in Czechoslovakia in 1936. Among his plays, those best known in the West are The Garden Party, The Memorandum, Largo Desolato, Temptation, and three one-act plays, Audience, Private View, and Protest. He is a founding spokesman of Charter 77 and the author of many influential essays on the nature of totalitarianism and dissent. In 1979 he was sentenced to four and a half years in prison for his involvement in the human rights movement. Out of this imprisonment came his book of letters to his wife, Letters to Olga (1981). In 1989 he helped to found the Civic Forum, the first legal opposition movement in Czechoslovakia in 40 years; in December 1989 he was elected president of Czechoslovakia; and in 1994 became the first president of the independent Czech Republic. His memoir, To the Castle and Back, was published in 2007. He died in 2011 at the age of 75.


In 1986, as his 50th birthday approached, then-dissident Czech playwright Havel submitted to a mail interview with exiled Czech journalist Hvizdala. The essays written as answers for that interview, here translated into English, range over all aspects of a varied life: Havel's childhood in a bourgeois family in Prague during the 1930s, as well as his unusual education--adolescent intellectual circles in the 1950s, experimental theater, and Charter 77 activities. A complex portrait emerges of a man long involved with his community and his state because he considers such involvement a moral imperative. With Havel as president of a newly organized Czechoslovakia since December 1989, expect interest in this title. Highly recommended for all libraries. Previewed as Long Distance Interrogation , Prepub Alert, LJ 2/15/90.-- Marcia L. Sprules, Council on Foreign Relations Lib., New York

Havel displayed resilience and courage in his unlikely journey from absurdist playwright to activist to president of Czechoslovakia. Branded a public enemy, his plays banned, he survived multiple arrests, four years in prison, a half-demented warden's endless punishments, and surveillance. His transformation from a writer, ``witness of his time,'' to a politician bent on rebuilding Czech democracy is modestly yet passionately recounted in an exhilarating set of interviews conducted by exiled Czech journalist Karel Hvizdala in 1985-1986. Havel sees East and West as undergoing a common crisis: the clash between an impersonal, irresponsible juggernaut of power, and the basic rights and interests of the individual. Far from embracing Western-style corporate capitalism, he favors diverse types of ownership and decentralized enterprises. Mingling autobiography with discussions of politics, literature and theater, his ruminations add up to a disarming and involving self-portrait. (June)

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