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Open Letters: Selected Prose


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Open Letters: Selected Prose by Vaclav Havel covers the enormously important Czech writer's prose between the early 1960s and his New Year message - as president of the newly democratic Czechoslovakia - in 1990.

About the Author

Vaclav Havel was born in Czechoslovakia in 1936. He is a founding spokesman of Charter 77 and the author of many influential essays on the nature of totalitarianism and dissent. In 1979 he was sentenced to four and a half years in prison for his involvement in the human rights movement. In November 1989 he helped to found the Civic Forum, the first legal opposition movement in Czechoslovakia in forty years; and in December 1989 he was elected President of Czechoslovakia.


This selection of Havel's 25 best essays written since 1965 is a fascinating chronicle of the development and ideas of the greatly admired Czechoslovakian dissident turned president. Whether he muses on Gorbachev, his harassment by the police, or the ever-present danger of injustices being committed in service of noble words, Havel writes with clarity, wit, eloquence, a steadfast optimism, and remarkable courage. Although some of the pieces were already published in Vaclav Havel, or Living in Truth ( LJ 8/87), such as the influential essays on the nature of totalitarianism (``Power of the Powerless'') and on the global crises of human responsibility (``Politics and Conscience''), this is an important book that belongs in both academic and public libraries.-- Marie Bednar, Pennsylvania State Univ. Libs., University Park

In a prescient 1987 essay, Czech playwright Havel, now his country's president, mocks those who look to ``Glasnost Czar'' Gorbachev as a liberator. Many of the pieces in this stirring collection of political essays, letters, speeches, autobiographical sketches, interviews and musings prefigure the upsurge of suppressed longings for freedom that toppled Czechoslovokia's totalitarian regime. A recurring theme is that fundamental change, whether in the East or the West, must begin with the individual conscience, with people resisting bureaucracy, ideologies and sloganeering. More than a third of the 25 selections appear here in English for the first time. The book closes with Havel's ringing 1990 New Year's address envisioning a democratic, prosperous republic that has overcome an obsolete economy, bankrupt school system and polluted environment. (June)

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