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Summer Meditations

4.03  ·  Rating details ·  204 ratings  ·  27 reviews
In a book written while he was president of Czechoslovakia, Vaclav Havel combines the same powerful eloquence, moral passion, and abiding wisdom that informed his writing as a dissident and playwright, with a candor unprecedented from one with the broad perspective and infinite responsibility of governing a country.

Havel, now president of the Czech Republic, addresses the
Paperback, 149 pages
Published June 1st 1993 by Vintage (first published January 1st 1991)
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4.03  · 
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 ·  204 ratings  ·  27 reviews

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Jun 17, 2015 added it
A beautiful insight into the mind of a great Czech humanist and a former president. Two years after the Velvet revolution, he kindly explains his political action, his intentions and humanistic principles. He reflects on the way of establishing democracy in Czechoslovakia and creating the new constitution, his fear of separation of Czech and Slovak nations (with admirable understanding of the Slovak side of view), the status of Czechoslovakia among other states and its participation in internati ...more
Jul 22, 2007 rated it really liked it
Vaclav, bravo!
Jan 19, 2008 rated it really liked it
I thought I read this book for the first time when I was 18, but when I "re-read" it a couple of months ago, it seemed to me that I maybe hadn't actually read the whole thing back then. I think I may only have read the first couple of chapters. Anyways, now I've read the whole thing.

Havel wrote this book while he was the president of Czechoslovakia, shortly before the Velvet Divorce when the county split up. This is a book that really gives you hope that politics really can be moral and civil. I
Mar 05, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Anyone interested in political philosophy
When I first read this series of essays in 1994, the revolutions of 1989 were still giving off a soft afterglow. Havel, the dissident playwright, led the "Velvet Revolution" that overthrew the communist regime in Czechoslovakia and was subsequently chosen as president. He symbolized the new Europe for many people.

Havel argues that the validity of political systems should be judged on how well they conform to humanistic values. Reading his work gives one hope that a politics based in ethical rela
Jun 20, 2007 rated it really liked it
the next presendential election is over a year away, and i'm already feeling disenchanted by politics again. reading havel's political and personal philosophy was a breath of fresh air. it's nice to hear a public figure talk about morality and discover they are referring to kindness, sincerity and compassion rather than the "morality" talking points we are subjected to by politicians in this country -- dogmatic right wing ideology. imagine having a dissident and playwright as our president who " ...more
Oct 12, 2014 rated it really liked it
I picked up this book while travelling in the Czech Republic. It was fascinating to read Vaclav Havel's hopes and concerns for the future of his country, written just after the fall of communism, while observing first hand what things are like a little more than 20 years later, the book is short, heartfelt, insightful, and well written. There is at least one quotable line on almost every page. Even though many things have changed since he wrote the book (e.g. the Czech and Slovak republics have ...more
Nick Diaco
Summer Meditations can be summed up in one simple phrase: embrace ideas, not ideologies. It is surprising how relevant the problems that faced post-communist Czechoslovakia are to our own society today, and how much better off we would all be if we were to abide by Havel's simple political principles. Although this book might not masterfully translated (don't try to read it for pleasure), its important message is by no means lost in translation.
Megan Aveni
Jul 12, 2013 rated it it was amazing
While I do see this book as a very optimistic approach to politics, Havel's hope for the world is contagious, and his passion is unmistakable. His understanding of human nature is invaluable. This book is full of practical wisdom, not only for aspiring politicians, but also for those who simply wish to make a difference in the world around them. I highly recommend this read.
Vikas Datta
Jul 24, 2011 rated it it was amazing
A vital read...
Apr 07, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Kayla Grzech
Jun 01, 2012 marked it as to-read
Shelves: non-fiction
if you were to take everything i've ever said, felt, or thought about politics and write it down into a book, this would be it. Except told from the viewpoint of a revolutionary Czech president.
Paul Kebker
May 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Summer Meditations by Václav Havel

In the immediate aftermath of the Velvet Revolution, also known as the "Gentle Revolution" where the people of Czechoslovakia regained their independence from Communist Russia control, Czechoslovakians were in desperate need of a leader to guide their country through this transitional period. They turned to a rebellious playwright and human rights activist Václav Havel when they elected him as President in 1989. President Havel served as the last president of Cz
Dec 22, 2014 rated it really liked it
Havel, the artist, was a reluctant head of state (as he was a reluctant dissident). Claiming a commitment stemming from a sense of decency and morality, Havel writes that “It simply seemed to me that, since I had been saying A for so long, I could not refuse to say B; it would have been irresponsible of me to criticize the Communist regime all my life and then, when it finally collapsed (with some help from me), refuse to take part in the creation of something better” (xvi).

Havel reasons that i
May 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
Summer Meditations, by Vaclav Havel, offers a refreshing contrast to the barrage of negative stories that dominate our current political landscape. The Czech president, rather than being embittered by the repression and persecution that he endured during the Soviet domination of Czechoslovakia, offers a view of political leadership that inspires and exhorts. Havel defines government as a means to create a moral and cultured society where working for the collective good supersedes partisanship an ...more
Nov 24, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: history, politics
I have enormous respect for Václav Havel, for the role he played during the cultural and economic transformation of Czechoslovakia, and also for the humane political values which he espoused before and during that time. In many ways, he is personally responsible for the differences between how Czechoslovakia broke up, and how Yugoslavia broke up.

This book was written in 1991 while he served as the somewhat reluctant first post-communist president of Czechoslovakia, and before its break-up into t
Jeremy Hodges
May 26, 2018 rated it liked it
Summer Meditations was an enjoyable read that depicts the way a moral leader transitions an economy from a state dominated authoritarian one to a capitalist market economy. Havel is successful but with some limitations. Havel paints Czechoslovakia as a broken country negatively influenced by Communism and ripe for positive change. While arguing for the beauty of nationality and countries he, at the same time, attempts to keep Slovakia and Czechia united. In this he fails. Czechoslovakia ultimate ...more
Kelsie Mariam
Jul 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
Though Havel wrote this book about (then) Czechoslovakia in 1991, so much of the text resonated with me as an American in 2018. I have to admit my ignorance when it comes to the Czech Republic's political history, and I am sure a stronger understanding would have helped me better appreciate Havel's meditations. Still, these are clearly the words of a thoughtful leader during an interesting time of transition.

As a teacher, I especially appreciated Havel's take on the importance of public schooli
Jan 18, 2016 rated it really liked it
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May 05, 2015 rated it really liked it
A Primer to Ethical Politics, all over the world and at home, this book should be read (it's first chapter at least) by those who want to be leaders or in politics. For the way it describes the the political machine in human terms, and the fact that he wrote this book while president of a country, about the country, most of it can't be limited to just Czechoslovakia. However there are other books written around this phenomena of a playwright politician, so this may not be the absolutely best boo ...more
Oct 12, 2007 rated it really liked it
A decent book, but it lacks the power of Disturbing the Peace. More than a guide to living in truth, this book serves as a chronicle of the first years after the Velvet Revolution in the Czech Republic. Thus, like most memoirs it tends to skirt Havel's most personal thoughts. Notwithstanding this fault, the book does a fair job of defending democracy and the free market, as well as illumining the challenges facing Eastern Europe.
Frank Roberts
Jan 25, 2013 rated it really liked it
I hold Havel in high esteem--the closest thing in our modern age to one of the American Founding Fathers, endowed with good sense, intellect, principle, and love of country.

This book is a collection of his thoughts on the path for the Czechoslovakian nation in the early 90s. Much of what he predicted and hoped for has come to pass, but the real value of this book is in its expression of timeless wisdom about political principles and human nature.
George Zarubin
Aug 29, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Fascinating insights into Havel's thinking... Not sure I agree with his thoughts that a state can be based on ideas, not ideology, but I like his reference about working for a 'higher responsibility' in one's life! Good book!
Jul 10, 2011 rated it it was amazing
If only more world leaders were as passionate and dedicated as Havel.
Jul 01, 2019 added it
This book was an engaging read, despite having aged a bit over the last two and a half decades. I would recommend skipping the second chapter unless you are terribly interested in the minutae of the Velvet Revolution. However, the final two chapters are a much needed voice in the age of amoral and cruel politics of the last decade. While contemporary politicians have weaponized fear and hate, and people are voting for politicians who serve only themselves, Havel talks about a politics of love an ...more
Jun 13, 2019 added it
I read this to fulfill a summer reading bingo box (book with summer in the title), but oh wow was it interesting to read in 2019 in the U.S. with our political climate.
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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
“There is only one thing I will not concede: that it might be meaningless to strive in a good cause.” 22 likes
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