Václav Havel (1936–2011)
by Damon Huss
Paul Wilson remembers playwright, poet, and Czech statesman Václav Havel in the latest New York Review of Books. Following the fall of the Communist regime in Czechoslovakia in 1989, Havel became president of that nation, and then the first president of the Czech Republic from 1993 to 2003. He died on December 18, 2011.
His vision held great appeal in the world at large. But in the rough and tumble of domestic politics, Havel’s words, once powerful enough to shake the foundations of the totalitarian state, sometimes seemed helpless to stem the rise of racism and corruption, or to slow the inflation that plagued so many who lived on fixed incomes or pensions, helpless to halt the headlong rush to separation from Slovakia that tore the country apart in 1993.
Havel’s second term as Czech president — from 1998 to 2003 — was marred by health problems, by scurrilous personal attacks on him and his second wife, Dagmar, and by political missteps that made him seem tired and out of touch. …
Thus the crowds that spontaneously filled the streets when he died — the largest since the Velvet Revolution — were all the more astonishing. It was as though the Czechs had only belatedly begun to grasp the magnitude of their loss, and the greatness of the man who had unobtrusively slipped out of their lives. [more]
Here is Paul Wilson talking about Havel, who was also his friend, on Al Jazeera English: