Vaclav Havel

Havel, Václav

Václav Havel (väts´läv hävĕl), 1936–2011, Czech dramatist and essayist, president of Czechoslovakia (1989–92) and the Czech Republic (1993–2003). The most original Czech dramatist to emerge in the 1960s, Havel soon antagonized the political power structure by focusing on the senselessness and absurdity of mechanized, totalitarian society in plays that implicitly criticized the government, such as The Garden Party (1963, tr. 1969) and The Memorandum (1965, tr. 1967), and in various essays of the 1960s and 70s. As an organizer (1977) and leading spokesman for the dissident group Charter 77, he was imprisoned (1979–83) by the Czechoslovak Communist regime, and his plays were banned.

Havel was a founder (1989) of the Civic Forum, a human rights and opposition group, and became its principal spokesman. When it succeeded in forcing (1989) the Communist party to share power, he became interim president of Czechoslovakia. He was elected president of Czechoslovakia after the collapse of Communism in 1990, but resigned in 1992 prior to the dissolution of Czechoslovakia, to which he was opposed. He was elected president of the new Czech Republic in 1993 and reelected in 1998. As president he tended toward a social democratic approach to social and economic issues, strongly supporting civil liberties and human rights and an eastward-expanding NATO. He retired from the presidency in 2003. Havel's other works include Protocols (essays and poems, 1966), Letters to Olga (1983, tr. 1989), Three Vanek Plays (1990), Open Letters: Selected Writings 1965–1990 (1991), Summer Meditations (1991, tr. 1992), and Selected Plays, 1984–87 (1994).

See his memoir, To the Castle and Back (2007); interview ed. by P. Wilson (tr. 1990); biography by M. Simmons (1991); collections of essays on Havel, ed. by J. Vladislav (1986) and M. Goetz-Stankiewicz and P. Carey (1999); study by J. Keane (2000).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2014, The Columbia University Press.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

Vaclav Havel: A Political Tragedy in Six Acts
John Keane.
Basic Books, 2000
Symbolism in the Diplomacy of Czech President Vaclav Havel
Fawn, Rick.
East European Quarterly, Vol. 33, No. 1, Spring 1999
Community and Political Thought Today
Peter Augustine Lawler; Dale McConkey.
Praeger Publishers, 1998
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 13 "The Experience of Totalitarianism and Recovery of Nature: Reflections on Philosophy and Community in the Thought of Solzhenitsyn, Havel, and Strauss"
Czechoslovakia: The Velvet Revolution and Beyond
Robin H. E. Shepherd.
Macmillan, 2000
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 3 "Havel - Power to the Powerless"
After the Fall: The Pursuit of Democracy in Central Europe
Jeffrey C. Goldfarb.
BasicBooks, 1992
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 5 "Havel to the Castle"
What Is Truth?
Peter Vardy.
University of New South Wales Press, 1999
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 19 "Vaclav Havel and Living the Truth"
Shock Waves: Eastern Europe after the Revolutions
John Feffer.
South End Press, 1992
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 7 "Czechoslovakia ... A Moral Foreign Policy"
Multicultural, Multipolar Interconnectedness-Toward a Global Civilization Chulalongkorn University: Dialogue among Civilizations
Havel, Vaclav.
International Journal of Humanities and Peace, Vol. 17, No. 1, Annual 2001
Capitalism with a Human Face?
Tucker, Scott.
The Humanist, Vol. 54, No. 3, May-June 1994
The Need for Transcendence in the Postmodern World
Havel, Vaclav.
The Futurist, Vol. 29, No. 4, July-August 1995
Transcending Havel
Madigan, Timothy J.
Free Inquiry, Vol. 18, No. 4, Fall 1998
Play It Again, Vaclav - the Wisdom in Havel's Plays
Chamberlain, Lesley.
The World and I, Vol. 16, No. 8, August 2001
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