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Vaclav Havel: Or Living in Truth

4.31  ·  Rating details ·  145 Ratings  ·  12 Reviews
pt. 1. Six texts by Václav Havel --
Letter to Dr Gustáv Husák --
The power of the powerless --
Six asides about culture --
Politics and conscience --
Thriller --
An anatomy of reticence --

pt. 2. Sixteen texts for Václav Havel --
Catastrophe / Samuel Beckett --
Courtesy towards God / Heinrich Böll --
Prague : a poem, not disappearing / Timothy Garton Ash --
Ex-prophets and
Hardcover, 315 pages
Published 1987 by Faber & Faber (first published January 1st 1986)
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Dec 29, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: biography
I got so angry at the dearth of media coverage after Havel's death (and more specifically at the depth of coverage given to a much more wicked man) that I went through my library looking for what of his writings I owned when I came across this volume. I forget where I bought it originally, no doubt from a used bookstore somewhere, and it had gathered more dust on my own shelves with only one lone bookmark 30 pages in where no doubt I had started reading and then got distracted by something else. ...more
Eduardo Santiago
Jan 18, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: morality
A must-read for surviving a totalitarian regime... or, if we're lucky, avoiding one. Havel's voice is beautiful. He writes with humility and uncompromising integrity on the importance of maintaining one's principles and dignity despite oppression. He stresses the need to avoid labels like “dissident,” declaring them meaningless and easily twisted; he calls instead for living honorable goals, for speaking truth and speaking out, defining yourself in affirmative terms instead of anti-tyranny.
Jun 25, 2015 rated it it was amazing
During the darkest of times within the Czech Republic, the country in whole was guided by the brightest of lights. Václav Havel was able to relate to the simplest of man and the highest of scholars and uniting them in hopes of creating something out of a the barren land the communists had stripped bare. Havel's essays throughout Living in Truth, are inspiring, they show insight through one of this worlds greatest visionaries perspective, humble yet so passionate about the country he so desperate ...more
Jun 17, 2008 rated it it was amazing
This is a series of essays about personal honesty and life in a totalitarian state (Czechoslovakia under Communism).
What optimism and belief in humanity to predict that Communism had to pass!
"Vitality cannot be suppressed forever. A secret streamlet trickles on beneath the heavy crust of inertia and bureaucratic pseudo-events, slowly undermining it. It may take a long time, but one day it must happen. The ice can no longer hold and begins to crack."
While the overall quality of this collection is somewhat patchy in places, I'd strongly recommend this book to anyone interested in politics and society, in the Eastern bloc, in political systems and culture simply on the power of Havel's Letter to Dr Husák and The Power of the Powerless, both of which are published in this volume. They are by far the strongest pieces in this collection, compelling and elegantly written, and I'd definitely label them as a 'must-read.'

Havel's other essays publish
Jan 17, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I admit that I didn't have time to read the full text before I had to send the book back to the library, but the excerpts that I flicked through - both Havel's own writing in Part 1 and the pieces written to/for him in Part 2 (including Samuel Beckett's 'Catastrophe', Arthur Miller's 'I Think About You A Great Deal' and Milan Kundera 'Candide Had To Be Destroyed') I found thoroughly thought-provoking and a good insight into Czech culture and psyche.
Sep 29, 2011 marked it as to-read


[the ethical work] offers a ready answer to any question whatsoever. It can scarcely be
accepted only in part, and accepting it has profound implications for human life . . . all
one has to do is accept it, and suddenly everything becomes clear once more, life takes
on new meaning, and all mysteries, unanswered questions, anxiety, and loneliness vanish
. . . . (Havel, Living in Truth, 1983: 38–39).
Dec 31, 2011 rated it it was amazing
"The Power of the Powerless" is worth reading alone, but Havel's musings on being a dissident, the importance of culture, and the stories about Havel from people as diverse as Arthur Miller and Milan Kundera make this book worth reading.
Saul Hudacin
Sep 26, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
I picked up this book to read Havel's essay "The Power of the Powerless", written in 1978. I recommend it.
About socialism
Dec 09, 2007 rated it it was ok
I guess this was supposed to speak to me but as a pampered east-west digerati, I'm probably just too far removed from the perspective.
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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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“Again, I call to mind that distant moment in [the prison at] Hermanice when on a hot, cloudless summer day, I sat on a pile of rusty iron and gazed into the crown of an enormous tree that stretched, with dignified repose, up and over all the fences, wires, bars and watchtowers that separated me from it. As I watched the imperceptible trembling of its leaves against an endless sky, I was overcome by a sensation that is difficult to describe: all at once, I seemed to rise above all the coordinates of my momentary existence in the world into a kind of state outside time in which all the beautiful things I had ever seen and experienced existed in a total “co-present”; I felt a sense of reconciliation, indeed of an almost gentle consent to the inevitable course of things as revealed to me now, and this combined with a carefree determination to face what had to be faced. A profound amazement at the sovereignty of Being became a dizzying sensation of tumbling endlessly into the abyss of its mystery; an unbounded joy at being alive, at having been given the chance to live through all I have lived through, and at the fact that everything has a deep and obvious meaning— this joy formed a strange alliance in me with a vague horror at the inapprehensibility and unattainability of everything I was so close to in that moment, standing at the very “edge of the finite”; I was flooded with a sense of ultimate happiness and harmony with the world and with myself, with that moment, with all the moments I could call up, and with everything invisible that lies behind it and has meaning. I would even say that I was somehow “struck by love,” though I don’t know precisely for whom or what.” 0 likes
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