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Disturbing the Peace: A Conversation with Karel Hvížďala
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Disturbing the Peace: A Conversation with Karel Hvížďala

4.17  ·  Rating details ·  379 ratings  ·  40 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
Jun 07, 2011 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
May 31, 2008 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
Apr 04, 2012 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
Dec 29, 2016 rated it liked it
Disturbing the Peace--a book-long interview with the former dissident/former president of Czechoslovakia Václav Havel. Havel was a playwright originally, before he became involved in opposition groups, so the book covered both his ideas on theater and his ideas on humanity. The interview was conducted before the 'Velvet Revolution' and before Havel was vaulted into the presidency by popular acclaim.

My feelings about this book were complex--or maybe I should say my feelings about Havel are. Numb
Dec 22, 2014 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
Mike Schneider
Mar 27, 2008 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'
Ondřej Trhoň
Feb 07, 2014 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 rated it really liked it
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.
Mitchell McInnis
Mar 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
This book is pure liberation porn of the best variety. It captures the moments surrounding the march to the castle, and is a wonderful glimpse of an utterly unique and triumphant time in Czech and world history.
Martha Atwell
Jan 20, 2009 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 18, 2009 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
Aug 10, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 1non-fiction
Nejdřív bych měl asi říct, že naději, o níž dost často přemýšlím (zvlášť v situacích obzvlášť beznadějných, jako například ve vězení), chápu především, původně a hlavně jako stav ducha, nikoli stav světa. Naději v sobě prostě máme nebo nemáme, je rozměrem naší duše a není ve své podstatě závislá na nějakých pozorováních světa či odhadech situace. Naděje není prognostika. Je to orientace ducha, orientace srdce, přesahující svět bezprostředně žitého a zakotvená kdesi dál, za jeho hranicemi. [...] ...more
Jun 17, 2011 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
Anna H.
Nov 02, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Having studied Havel mostly as a political figure, I picked this book to learn more about Havel as a playwright and dissident before actually starting reading his plays (and the newly edited volume on his prison diaries). It was fascinating to learn how his earliest experiences already helped to shape his writing, about his journey to become a playwright, his civic engagement, and his experiences while in prison...and even his perception of Dubček! The fact that he refers to Dubček as "the Kramá ...more
Dec 08, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Disturbing the Peace is a book length interview with Václav Havel that functions as a sort of memoir, starting with his childhood, up to a the mid-80's, when the interview was conducted. The personality that comes through in the text, of an absurdist playwright and political activist who doesn't want to be involved in politics, is a somewhat humble one, Havel being aware of his own personal paradoxes and flaws.

Although I'm not familiar with his plays, I found the book to be a testament to the im
Persephone Abbott
Jan 05, 2016 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
Pavla Kosarova
Jan 23, 2016 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
Mar 23, 2017 rated it liked it
A difficult read for me - kept picking it up then putting it down. Theatre in the 50s and 60s interwoven with Czechoslovakian politics. Unfortunately I'm not versed in the latter. Nevertheless it contains a bit of dark humor as well as thought provoking passages about art. I would have liked it more if I knew the history, especially as it relates to Havel. That's on me to do the homework. Happy reading.
Jan 04, 2014 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.
Oct 12, 2007 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.
Mar 24, 2017 rated it really liked it
Taken from a series of conversation with Václav Havel three years before he was elected to the presidency of the democratic Czechoslovakia. He presents a great contrast to many world leaders we are familiar with: a sturdy intellectual and artist who became an almost accidental leader of his people as they forged a new identity.
May 17, 2013 rated it liked it
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.
May 21, 2010 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
May 26, 2014 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
Jan 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoir
A good and important read from an inspiring political figure of recent history. There are some wonderful meditations in here about maintaining hope in the face of dire political circumstances, and taking action because that action is right and not necessarily because anything will be achieved.
Feb 17, 2008 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Feb 09, 2009 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.
Jun 10, 2009 marked it as to-read
Shelves: own
Disturbing the Peace: A Conversation with Karel Huizdala by Vaclav Havel (1991)
Ryan Henderson
Nov 09, 2015 rated it really liked it
An interesting look at Havel's life and his involvement with Charter 77 and other dissent activities in Czechoslovakia.
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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
“The deeper the experience of an absence of meaning - in other words, of absurdity - the more energetically meaning is sought.” 14 likes
“What else but a profound feeling of being excluded can enable a person better to see the absurdity of the world and his own existence, or, to put it more soberly, the absurd dimensions of the world and his own existence?” 3 likes
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