Havel: A Life

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  • Format: Hardcover
  • Copyright: 2014-11-04
  • Publisher: Grove Press
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Václav Havel was one of the most prominent figures of the twentieth century: iconoclast and intellectual, renowned playwright turned political dissident, president of a united then divided nation, and dedicated human rights activist. Written by Michael Zantovsky—Havel’s former press secretary, advisor, and longtime friend—Havel: A Life presents a revelatory portrait of this giant among men and the turbulent times through which he prevailed.

Havel’s lifelong perspective as an outsider began with his privileged childhood in Prague and his family’s blacklisted status following the Communist coup of 1948. This feeling of being outcast fueled his career as an essayist and dramatist, writing absurdist plays as social commentary. His involvement during the Prague Spring and his leadership of Charter 77, his unflagging belief in the power of the powerless, and his galvanizing personality catapulted Havel into a pivotal role as the leader of the Velvet Revolution in 1989. Although Havel was a courageous visionary, he was also a man of great contradictions, wracked with doubt and self-criticism. But he always remained true to himself. Over the next thirteen years, he continued to break through international barriers as the last president of Czechoslovakia and the first president of the Czech Republic.

Author Biography

Michael Žantovský is Ambassador of the Czech Republic to the court of St. James in England. In 1990, he became the press secretary and spokesman for President Václav Havel and went on to serve as the Ambassador to the United States and to Israel. In 1996, he was elected to the Senate of the Parliament of the Czech Republic, and thrice elected the Chairman of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Security of the Senate. He has taught American studies at Charles University in Prague and Euro-American relations at the Prague branch of the New York University.

He has translated into Czech more than fifty works of contemporary English and American fiction, poetry, drama, and non-fiction (including books by James Baldwin, Norman Mailer, Toni Morrison, and Tom Stoppard), and he published a book on the life and films of Woody Allen. He was a contributor to the samizdat press, and the Prague correspondent of Reuters, as well as a founding member of the Czech chapter of P.E.N. and a founding member of the Civic Forum. As a journalist, he has published many articles and essays on foreign policy, current affairs and literature.

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