Václav Havel

Playwright, Politician

1936 – 2011

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Who was Václav Havel?

Václav Havel was a Czech playwright, essayist, poet, dissident and politician.

Havel was the ninth and last president of Czechoslovakia and the first president of the Czech Republic. He wrote more than 20 plays and numerous non-fiction works, translated internationally.

Havel was voted 4th in Prospect magazine's 2005 global poll of the world's top 100 intellectuals. At the time of his death he was Chairman of the New York-based Human Rights Foundation. He was the founder of the VIZE 97 Foundation and the principal organizer of the Forum 2000 annual global conference.

Havel was one of the signatories of the Charter 77 manifesto, a founding signatory, together with Joachim Gauck, of the Prague Declaration on European Conscience and Communism, and a council member of the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation. Havel received many recognitions, including the United States Presidential Medal of Freedom, the Gandhi Peace Prize, the Philadelphia Liberty Medal, the Order of Canada, the freedom medal of the Four Freedoms Award, and the Ambassador of Conscience Award. The 2012–2013 academic year at the College of Europe was named in his honour.

Famous Quotes:

  • There is only one art, whose sole criterion is the power, the authenticity, the revelatory insight, the courage and suggestiveness with which it seeks its truth. Thus, from the standpoint of the work and its worth it is irrelevant to which political ideas the artist as a citizen claims allegiance, which ideas he would like to serve with his work or whether he holds any such ideas at all.
  • None of us know all the potentialities that slumber in the spirit of the population, or all the ways in which that population can surprise us when there is the right interplay of events.
  • The salvation of this human world lies nowhere else than in the human heart, in the human power to reflect, in human meekness and human responsibility.
  • A state that denies its citizens their basic rights becomes a danger to its neighbors as well: internal arbitrary rule will be reflected in arbitrary external relations. The suppression of public opinion, the abolition of public competition for power and its public exercise opens the way for the state power to arm itself in any way it sees fit. A state that does not hesitate to lie to its own people will not hesitate to lie to other states.
  • A human action becomes genuinely important when it springs from the soil of a clear-sighted awareness of the temporality and the ephemerally of everything human. It is only this awareness that can breathe any greatness into an action.
  • True enough, the country is calm. Calm as a morgue or a grave, would you not say?
  • Hope is definitely not the same thing as optimism. It is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out.
  • The role of the writer is not simply to arrange Being according to his own lights; he must also serve as a medium to Being and remain open to its often unfathomable dictates. This is the only way the work can transcend its creator and radiate its meaning further than the author himself can see or perceive.
  • Human beings are compelled to live within a lie, but they can be compelled to do so only because they are in fact capable of living in this way. Therefore not only does the system alienate humanity, but at the same time alienated humanity supports this system as its own involuntary master plan, as a degenerate image of its own degeneration, as a record of people's own failure as individuals.
  • You do not become a dissident just because you decide one day to take up this most unusual career. You are thrown into it by your personal sense of responsibility, combined with a complex set of external circumstances. You are cast out of the existing structures and placed in a position of conflict with them. It begins as an attempt to do your work well, and ends with being branded an enemy of society.

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Born
Oct 5, 1936
Prague
Also known as
  • Vaclav Havel
  • President Vaclav Havel
Parents
Siblings
Spouses
Religion
  • Deism
  • Roman Catholic Church
Nationality
  • Czech Republic
  • Czechoslovakia
Profession
Education
  • Czech Technical University in Prague
  • Faculty of Theatre
  • Academy of Performing Arts in Prague
Lived in
  • Prague
Died
Dec 18, 2011
Vlčice

Submitted
on July 23, 2013

Citation

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"Václav Havel." Biographies.net. STANDS4 LLC, 2021. Web. 2 Dec. 2021. <https://www.biographies.net/people/en/vaclav_havel>.

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