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Disturbing the Peace: A Conversation with Karel Hvížďala

4.14  ·  Rating Details  ·  287 Ratings  ·  31 Reviews
An intimate history of Czechoslovakia under communism; a meditation on the social and political role of art, and a triumphant statement of the values underlying all the recent revolutions in Central and Eastern Europe.
Paperback, 256 pages
Published April 3rd 1991 by Vintage (first published 1986)
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Larry Bassett
Jul 14, 2011 Larry Bassett rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people interested in eastern European political history
Czech writer Vaclav Havel found a cause he was willing to die for. Disturbing the Peace is his story of how he came to that cause and what happened. (Spoiler: he didn’t die; he became President) In 1975, he writes, “it was time to stop waiting to see what ‘they’ would do and do something myself, compel them for a change to deal with something they hadn’t counted on.” “They” were the totalitarian government of Czechoslovakia. He was arrested in January 1977 and held until May 1977. He was next ...more
Apr 04, 2012 Tuck rated it really liked it
Shelves: essays
a Q and A format for the most part, with short but good intro by paul wilson and the questioner is karel huizdala, most of the "interrview" was done long distance. they go through havel's young life as a playwright, then what got him trhown in the slammer, then how charter 77 worked and worked out, then a last very good chapter called "the politics of hope" where havel talks about the serious thinking he did in prison in the 1980's. has a helpful glossary too. this is really a must read companio ...more
Sep 08, 2008 Nick rated it really liked it
I most likely would never have read this book if it hadn't been given to me as a gift. I have never seen or read any of Havel's plays, have spent all of 3 days in the Czech Republic, and knew of the Prague Spring primarily through Kundera's Unbearable Lightness of Being and Stoppard's Rock and Roll--I basically have no strong connection to Havel and had never even heard of this book.

Disturbing the Peace is, however, quite a wonderful read. Havel, who says so himself at the end of the book, had a
Mike Schneider
Feb 18, 2011 Mike Schneider rated it really liked it
Havel is quite a guy. A creative writer, creative mind, with an engineering technical background who becomes the president of his country. A leader in the "velvet revolution" -- this book covers some of the territory that led up to the fall of communism in Czechoslovakia. Including the formation of Charter 77. It covers time Havel spent in jail. He's remarkable as a public thinker -- astute analysis of social conditions and how change can be wrought . . .

A companion to this book is Tom Stoppard'
Dec 22, 2014 Adam rated it really liked it
This is a pretty stunning historical document. In ’85, Havel started to write responses to questions posed by a fellow writer who was in West Germany, all via underground mail. Havel published it DIY, then it became the first samizdat book to be published in the free Czechoslovakia.

To appreciate Havel’s politics is to understand that he was a literary man as much as a political one. So it’s not surprising that he’s at his best when he synthesizes his the artistic and the political: “Even the tou
Ondřej Trhoň
Feb 09, 2014 Ondřej Trhoň rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Snad jen některé odpovědi by mohly být rozděleny otázkami, čistě pro plynulost textu. Jinak jsem se konečně dovzdělal ohledně Havla - je to jednak pěkná sonda do jeho myšlení (jak literárního, tak i trochu politického a především osobního), poučný vhled do minulosti, který mi přiblížil ty události o dost víc než učebnice dějepisu. Havel tak, jak z té knihy jako člověk vyznívá (i svou sebereflexí v poslední kapitole), je mi sympatický. Jdu si sehnat Zahradní slavnost.
Eric Heydenberk
Sep 30, 2007 Eric Heydenberk rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, czech
Vaclav Havel has some quite nuanced opinions about politics, art, and social change. While you might expect him to hold strong reactionary opinions against the type of government that made him an illegal artist and imprisoned him several times, he still sees the merits in socialism and the pitfalls in capitalism. He longs for a system of political organization separate from these two, which does not suppress the human spirit.
Persephone Abbott
Jan 08, 2016 Persephone Abbott rated it really liked it
" someone once concluded no one at all was holding the steering wheel of history." Other remarks are just as entertaining. How does one explain history? When is it made, or made up? "(Kundera's) idea is that amnesia rules history and that history is an inexhaustible source of cruel jokes...." I hadn't expected to like this book even half as much as I did, and then an anonymous airplane compagnon in my row leaned over the book and said, "Didn't Hillary Clinton just quote something from Havel ...more
Martha Atwell
Jan 20, 2009 Martha Atwell rated it really liked it
Inspiring stuff. Helpful to anyone trying to understand how to live as a full human being under a police state.
Phil Huckelberry
Jun 19, 2009 Phil Huckelberry rated it it was amazing
I've been told that I work like an optimist but talk like a pessimist. I've always seen it more as having some kind of enduring hope for the future, but a realistic (?) awareness of the present, something like that.

I feel like Havel has actually expressed this dichotomy for me, far beyond how I might be able to. I guess I might say I feel a sense of inspiration, but not some sort of undirected inspiration, even though I can't really describe what the direction might be.

At the very least, Havel h
Jun 21, 2011 Nicola rated it liked it
Shelves: biographies
An interview with Vaclav Havel - a playright, political dissenter, prisoner and eventually the president of Czechoslovakia after the fall of communism in 1989. I read this book with very little knowledge of Vaclav Havel or Czechoslovakia. I was interested in reading it because the "velvet revolution" was referenced a few times during an interview with Aung San Suu Kyi about her own political struggle for the people of Burma/Myanmar. As the interview with Vaclav Havel doesn't present the history ...more
Apr 03, 2013 Natalie rated it really liked it
In this long-distance interview with Karel Hvížďala, Václav Havel discusses a number of interesting and important topics: some historical, some intellectual, some personal, some a mixture of the three. Havel unfolds his worldview over the pages, and the real beauty of this book is that it provides you with a definite sense of character. Havel is open, measured, witty, articulate, and (most importantly) likeable: it is his personality which makes this book such an easy and enjoyable read.

As a si
David Antoš
Dec 27, 2015 David Antoš rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Liked it. Although I wish I could better understand the parts that present Havel as an artist an humanist (not my training and nature) and Havel opened more about himself as a person of emotions.
Jan 17, 2016 Harald rated it it was amazing
Shelves: autobiography
Fine introduction to Havel's life and thinking on theater and civic engagement before he became president of Czechoslovakia.
Pavla Kosarova
Mar 10, 2016 Pavla Kosarova rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classical-czech
Nečekala bych, že rozhovor s dramatikem absurdna, který by svou pozdější prezidentskou roli v době sepsání knihy, považoval za další svoji hru, se bude číst tak dobře. Vzpomínky a události jsou vyprávěny živě, bez důrazu na vlastní osobu. Havlův styl je věcný, realistický, bez sebechvály a hrdinství. Díky této věcnosti, sice vidíme události z pohledu jednoho u účastníků a hybatelů, ale atmosféra napětí, rychlých změn strmých vzestupů a pádů je popisovaná jaksi z odstupu. Čtenář ji nedostane možn ...more
Jan 23, 2014 Kimberly rated it really liked it
I knew nothing about Czechoslovakia or the Czech Republic or Vaclav Havel until I read this book. I enjoyed reading about the political transformation/revolution of the country through the perspective of this absurdist playwright turned president. Havel became the first president of the newly independent country the Czech Republic in 1989, and this interview in book format takes place prior to him getting elected.
Ryan Henderson
Nov 20, 2015 Ryan Henderson rated it really liked it
An interesting look at Havel's life and his involvement with Charter 77 and other dissent activities in Czechoslovakia.
Nov 18, 2015 Jason marked it as did-not-finish
Just couldn't get into it.
Apr 20, 2008 Andrés rated it it was amazing
An excellent book, perhaps one of the best I've ever read. Havel's defense of the individual, his right to think and believe in accordance with his conscience, is not merely theoretically but is in fact grounded firmly in reality. His belief in a moral code, the value of living a moral life, the right to life with dignity, all of this and more is truly inspiring.
Not a great place to start with Havel; these are interviews chronicling his theatre and political careers in Prague. I skimmed a lot since I didn't know some of the context, but what I caught in the that spoke to a larger truth. Havel came off more pragmatic than I would have guessed; I expect everyone can find some lessons in this book.
Jun 07, 2010 Kate rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction
I expected this book to have more information about Czechoslovakia and it's history, so I was disappointed to find that Havel spent most of the interview talking about theatre. The timing of the book's publication may have led him to gloss over so many political details. Nevertheless, I expected to learn more from this book than I did.
E Stanton
Jul 08, 2014 E Stanton rated it it was amazing
I've always been a great fan of Havel the dissident and Havel the politician. This interview gives us Havel the author, playwrite, the man. Highly recommend for anyone who is interested in politics or modern European history
Feb 17, 2008 Rick rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jul 07, 2014 Kami added it
More appropriately than currently reading, I should say indefinitely reading. Tried twice to finish this, and while it was interesting, I never made it through the last 75 pages or so.
Jun 15, 2010 Andrew rated it really liked it
Paul Wilson is a fabulous translator - I'm fluent in Czech and have read many of these pieces in the original, but his translations are better than I could ever hope to do myself.
Feb 13, 2009 Rob marked it as to-read
My friend Yuri suggested this author from his home country. Vaclav Havel was the 1st President of the Czech Republic.
Jan 12, 2010 Libby rated it really liked it
Shelves: war-genocide, europe
Havel is the man! easy read and gives you a sense of his character and motivations.
Jul 18, 2012 Risa marked it as to-read
Shelves: own
Disturbing the Peace: A Conversation with Karel Huizdala by Vaclav Havel (1991)
Jul 22, 2008 Emmett rated it it was amazing
Best book about government, citizenship, society and all that stuff.
Jul 22, 2007 Emilelisa rated it really liked it
very, very inspiring conversations...
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Václav Havel was a Czech playwright, essayist, poet, dissident and politician. He was the tenth and last President of Czechoslovakia (1989–92) and the first President of the Czech Republic (1993–2003). He wrote over twenty plays and numerous non-fiction works, translated internationally. He received the US Presidential Medal of Freedom, the Philadelphia Liberty Medal, the Order of Canada, the free ...more
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“The deeper the experience of an absence of meaning - in other words, of absurdity - the more energetically meaning is sought.” 12 likes
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