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Open Letters: Selected Writings, 1965-1990
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Open Letters: Selected Writings, 1965-1990

4.23 of 5 stars 4.23  ·  rating details  ·  190 ratings  ·  13 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)
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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
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
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.
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
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
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 4 of 5 stars
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.
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.
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.
Had only previously read The Power of the Powerless. Havel writes very clearly and intelligently.
All I can say is that he is awesomo.
Inspiring stuff.
Don't go to jail.
Emily marked it as to-read
Dec 11, 2014
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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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