Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Open Letters: Selected Writings, 1965-1990” as Want to Read:
Open Letters: Selected Writings, 1965-1990
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Open Letters: Selected Writings, 1965-1990

4.23  ·  Rating Details ·  239 Ratings  ·  17 Reviews
Spanning twenty-five years, this historic collection of writings shows Vaclav Havel's evolution from a modestly known playwright who had the courage to advise and criticize Czechoslovakia's leaders to a newly elected president whose first address to his fellow citizens begins, "I assume you did not propose me for this office so that I, too, would lie to you." Some of the p ...more
Paperback, 432 pages
Published June 2nd 1992 by Vintage (first published January 1st 1991)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Open Letters, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Open Letters

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Simon Hollway
Jan 12, 2017 Simon Hollway rated it liked it
Shelves: 2017
Schoolmasterly without being magisterial. I couldn't brush off the lecturing, sometimes hectoring, beat that chimed throughout each essay. A self-conscious style anxious to parse every philosophical nuance of every political scenario; a pen determined to nail down the peripatetic etymology of each and every paragraph, down to the very last, rogue syllable, squirming and biting in a futile attempt to escape across the border. Haval defines and labels and controls (and, by inference, redeems) thro ...more
Oct 06, 2016 Philip rated it it was amazing
Havel's genius involves being able to step back from particular situations and see them in the light of broader philosophical and humanistic principles.

While it helps to know a bit about Eastern European history of the late 20th century, you do not have to know much to appreciate this author's trenchant analysis of ideologies and their harrowing effects on the human soul and society generally.

Havel was a playwright who become involved in the Czech dissident movement, was imprisoned for a time, a
Oct 20, 2009 Jim rated it it was amazing
As I read these twenty-five years' worth of letters, articles, and speeches by the first president of Czechoslovakia after the blight of a particularly repressive form of Communism. I am endlessly fascinated by this man's personal honesty and courage in the face of persecution. He paid heavily for being outspoken in favor of Charter 77 and increased personal freedoms for his fellow Czechs and Slovaks by spending some four years in prison.

In one of my favorite pieces, "Stories and Totalitarianism
Dec 23, 2008 Julia rated it it was amazing
The amazing thing about this book is the sense of hope and possibility Havel maintained in the bleakest of circumstances. He was harassed, imprisoned, blocked from publishing or producing his works, and yet he maintains his equilibrium and the ability to live "in the truth". Wow.
Ryan Moore
Dec 30, 2014 Ryan Moore rated it really liked it
A great first hand look into Havel's beliefs and ideals. I've always been a fan because of his work as a democratic activist and this book proved why.
Apr 03, 2016 Jean rated it really liked it
Where to start..

Reading this book sometimes made me wish that I was Czech so that I too, could have had Havel as my president. His brilliantly insightful writing passionately advocates for a democratic society that respects the individual. His concept of living within the truth in the Power of the Powerless has always stayed with me. His undying belief in life, in the inability of a totalitarian regime to crush life is contagiously powerful.
In his words 'The system's totalitarian character con
Jul 29, 2016 Natalie rated it really liked it
If you want to read any of Havel's political or philosophical writings, Opens Letters is the book to get. As well as having all the really important essays he produced in the 1970s and 80s (Letter to Dr. Husák, The Power of the Powerless, Politics and Conscience), Paul Wilson also includes lesser known works: some early writings from the 1960s, speeches, letters, interviews, and pieces published in samizdat. It's a very good collection of essays, and it's a fascinating glimpse of the life and th ...more
Jun 11, 2011 Mark rated it really liked it
Vaclav Havel's story, in digest: burgeoning young playwright, pours himself into activism, gets jailed for sedition, then emerges to become last President of Czechoslovokia and first President of the Czech Republic. This collection spans 25 years of personal correspondence, writings from behind the prison wall, and more pamphlet-style meditations and essays under the inititiative of the legendary Charter 77. He really deeply knows his political and civic philosophy, along with the incalculable v ...more
Mar 13, 2012 Deborah rated it really liked it
A smattering of Havel from musing on getting his Second WInd, On Evasive Thinking, his Letter to Alexander Dubček, who was a Slovak politician and leader of Czechoslovakia (1968–1969), famous for his attempt to reform the communist regime during the Prague Spring, and "Dear Dr. Husák", addressed to Gustav Husák, who was then the general secretary of the Czechoslovak Communist Party. With doses of humor and sobering wit, Two Notes on Charter 77, Anatomy of a Reticence, and A Word about Words, the ...more
Dec 20, 2013 Denisa rated it really liked it
A magnificent collection of selected writings by Vaclav Havel over the span of over 20 years. It is fascinating to read them chronologically as they are arranged in the book to see how he interprets the ever changing and closing world around him. His idea of living a life of truth, hope and culture as saving grace for all of society was truly revolutionary at the time. Reading it now, I find how my life falls short of his definition of living in the truth although I live in a free society where ...more
May 30, 2007 John rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: everyone
Such a powerful book and definitely worth the read to understand what it was like for a person imprisoned in communist Czechoslovakia. Havel is such an interesting person and makes some fascinating observations about communist and democratic regimes.
Nov 04, 2009 Charles marked it as to-read
I purchased this book for Dr. Backman's Western Civilization's course, but I don't remember reading it. No time like the present, I say.
Apr 19, 2008 Carilyn rated it really liked it
I remember that this book awakened me to a life outside of my own. He was an influential man and became the leader of his nation.
Morhannah Morris
Morhannah Morris rated it it was amazing
Jul 09, 2009
Kathleen rated it it was amazing
Jan 13, 2013
Rainy rated it really liked it
Jan 07, 2008
Colin Alley
Colin Alley rated it really liked it
Jan 08, 2017
Rebecca rated it it was amazing
Mar 19, 2010
Jon Jensen
Jon Jensen rated it really liked it
Dec 26, 2015
Nessie rated it really liked it
Apr 07, 2008
Blackadams rated it it was amazing
May 25, 2012
Sabrina rated it really liked it
Apr 07, 2014
Denisa Hrubá
Denisa Hrubá rated it really liked it
Oct 20, 2012
Jiří Němčík
Jiří Němčík rated it liked it
May 17, 2016
Taylor rated it really liked it
Nov 23, 2012
Kirsten Tautfest
Kirsten Tautfest rated it it was amazing
Jun 19, 2015
Chris rated it liked it
Jan 20, 2013
Ella Chou
Ella Chou rated it it was amazing
Jul 06, 2013
Tricia Downey
Tricia Downey rated it really liked it
Aug 31, 2015
E.W. rated it really liked it
Sep 05, 2008
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • The Magic Lantern: The Revolution of '89 Witnessed in Warsaw, Budapest, Berlin and Prague
  • On the Move
  • Hipster Christianity: When Church and Cool Collide
  • The Price of My Soul
  • Talks With T. G. Masaryk
  • Magic Prague
  • Hog Pilots, Blue Water Grunts: The American Military in the Air, at Sea, and on the Ground
  • States and Social Revolutions: A Comparative Analysis of France, Russia and China
  • Love Thy Neighbor: A Story of War
  • On Trying to Keep Still
  • The Case for Democracy: The Power of Freedom to Overcome Tyranny and Terror
  • Vivid Faces: The Revolutionary Generation in Ireland, 1890-1923
  • The Bolshevik Revolution 1917-23, Vol 1
  • Peasant Wars of the Twentieth Century
  • Belfast Diary: War as a Way of Life
  • The French Revolution
  • Locked in the Cabinet
  • City of Saints: A Pilgrimage to John Paul II's Kraków
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
More about Václav Havel...

Share This Book

“Every meaningful cultural act -- wherever it takes place -- is unquestionably good in and of itself, simply because it exists and because it offers something to someone. Yet can this value 'in itself' really be separated from 'the common good'? Is not one an integral part of the other from the start? Does not the bare fact that a work of art has meant something to someone -- even if only for a moment, perhaps to a single person -- already somehow change, however minutely, the overall condition for the better? ... Can we separate the awakening human soul from what it always, already is -- an awakening human community?” 0 likes
More quotes…