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Havel A Life av Michael Zantovsky

Havel A Life (urspr publ 2014; utgåvan 2014)

av Michael Zantovsky

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Examines the life of a man who rose from being an outcast and prisoner during Communist rule to becoming the last president of Czechoslovakia, the first president of the newly democratic Czech Republic and a human-rights activist.
Titel:Havel A Life
Författare:Michael Zantovsky
Info:London : Atlantic Books Ltd, 2014.
Samlingar:Ditt bibliotek
Taggar:bio, own


Havel: A Life av Michael Žantovský (2014)


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engelska (4)  franska (1)  Alla språk (5)
Visar 5 av 5
Je jen málo biografií, na které bych byl tak zvědavý, jako na Havla v podání Michaela Žantovského. Je to samozřejmě dáno v první řadě osobou Václava Havla, jenže o něm byla napsána již řada knih. Na Žantovského práci mě však lákala osoba autora a hlavně jeho přátelství s Havlem samotným. Právě toto přátelství se však ukázalo být problémovým. Žantovský líčí přehledně a obrazotvorně důležité epizody Havlova života, včetně umělecké tvorby, od narození až po sametovou revoluci. Jenže právě v době vzniku Občanského fóra, na kterém se Havel i Žantovský podíleli, se situace změní a většina z následujících dvou pětin knihy působí hlavně jako obhajoba Havlových kroků. Kritiku svého kamaráda Žantovský přijímá zřídka a neochotně, a vždy po ní následuje nějaké "ale". Život Havla - prezidenta je popsán možná až příliš stručně a zasloužil by si snad více prostoru, než život Havla - dramatika a disidenta, na druhou stranu to v jistém smyslu snad odpovídá tomu, jak na sebe Havel v posledních letech svého života nejspíše nahlížel. Žantovského knihu se však vyplatí přečíst celou, i kdybyste Havlův porevoluční život znali velice dobře. Blíže k pohledu samotného státníka a dramatika se totiž dostanete už jen v pracích Havla samotného. ( )
  zajus | Jul 13, 2023 |
I did not go to college until I finished serving in the Marines, so my college experiences may seem out of place for my age. However, in Catholic graduate school Vlacav Havel was talk of the International Relations department. Havel secured a place with likes of Bishop Romero in the pantheon of great leaders over oppression. I already made a few waves criticizing Romero and liberation theology. My feelings were if you are going to stand up to oppression, stand up and stay standing when the times get tough. Don't hide behind a pulpit and say "You can't touch me." Don't get me wrong, I did not in any way support the death squads or the message sent by them killing a priest at the altar. I felt if you are going to revolt, revolt and be willing to stand up and, if necessary, pay the price. “Freedom isn’t free.” says the cliche reads. I stayed quiet on Havel mostly because he was not part of my field of study. Still, the name stuck with me.

Zantovsky, a long time friend of Havel writes an interesting biography. It is not a glorification of Havel nor is it sensationalism. It is an honest telling of the good and the bad. Havel was no saint and lived more closely to Rousseau than a saintly leader. His wife Olga was his rock, but not is only intimate relationship. He loved Rock and Roll and in fact for a White House visit convinced Clinton to have Lou Reed play. Clinton agreed, with the condition that "Walk on the Wild Side" Would not be play. The Lewinsky scandal was the hot item and a song about drag queens would not do much to help his image. Clinton and Havel developed a friendship. In my mind, I have the feeling the two of them together, after a few drinks, would be little different than the old Saturday Night Live skit with Steve Martin and Dan Aykroyd -- the two wild and crazy guys from Czechoslovakia. This can be compared to Havel's relationship with Thatcher, who mothered over him -- telling him what he is doing right and what he is doing wrong.

Havel was born into wealth which was not a good thing after the Iron Curtain went up. He was seen as less of a citizen and more suspect because of his millionaire family. Havel, without property and his family’s wealth, was able to was able to live well from his writing. His plays were a hit in Czechoslovakia and outside the Iron Curtain too. The crushing of the Prague Spring, which Havel took a role, brought an end to his work inside of Czechoslovakia, however he was still paid in the West. Havel was also a founder of Charter 77 an informal initiative criticizing the government for its human rights failings. These human rights were guaranteed by the Czechoslovak constitution and various international agreements the government had signed. The government declared Charter 77 illegal and no copies were officially printed, but it circulated underground and in the West.

Havel’s association with Charter 77 brought him under official surveillance and several prison sentences from 1979 -1983. Prison was not as bad as expected. Not being physically big or athletic he worried about his safety, but found in the hierarchy of prison, as a political prisoner, he sat pretty high on the list. Not that being a political prisoner was considered glamorous like bank robbing to other prisoners, but being jailed for confronting the government that sentenced the prisoners made him the enemy of their enemy, so to speak. Havel also had earned an international following which kept pressure on the government to keep his prison stays short.

No less remarkable is the surprising smoothness of Czechoslovakian freedom. As president, Havel managed to keep things under control. There was no circus atmosphere as in Romania. There were difficult and tough decisions, but it was a model for transition. The breakup of Czechoslovakia into two countries was also relatively smooth. Much smoother than the breakup of Yugoslavia, also an “artificial” country drawn up after World War I.

The book includes some humor and some irony too. For example, when the German president met with President Havel, he greeted him by saying, “The last time we came in tanks. I walked this time.” He earned the Presidential Medal of Freedom and was awarded it with Charlton Heston, Julia Child, and Dave Thomas (Wendy’s).

While Havel’s rock n roll lifestyle may not be the grounds for a great leader, he was committed to human rights, peace, and fairness. He worked hard to make sure the privatization of business did not fall directly into the hands of the former communists. He put a stop to the Czechoslovakian arms industry, despite the resistance from the Slovaks. He met with the pope and the Dalai Lama. Politically he was able to remain true to his beliefs. He stood up and stood his ground. Zantovsky writes an excellent biography of a man and not a revolutionary image. Havel is not deitized in this book, but shown to be human and a man who earned the respect and standing. Havel: A Life is an outstand account of a man who stood up and became a part of history.
( )
  evil_cyclist | Mar 16, 2020 |
Qu'il devait être agaçant, qu'il devait être perturbant, qu'il devait être charmant, qu'il devait être emmerdant... Qu'il était humain!!! ( )
  Nikoz | Sep 18, 2015 |
An excellent book, not only on Havel's life, but as good an overview of what was going on and why people responded the way they did, how things felt and looked, as an insider can give an outsider. Zantovsky's dry wit really helps, too. My favorite paragraph comes as Czechloslovakia is splitting apart:
Havel felt something had to done to arrest the slide of the country into a constitutional and political stalemate . . . He left nothing to chance, inviting the guests to stay overnight and cooking his own goulash for the dinner. As the piece de resistance he produced a twenty-three-year-old bottle of slivovitz that the village locals had buried in the ground on the day of the Soviet invasion in August 1968, to be recovered in better days. The meeting produced a transcript of more than 200 pages . . .. about the competencies of the federation emanating from a treaty between the two constituent nations, which, however, could not be a treaty under the federal constitution, and would thus have to revert to the two hens conceiving one egg, which would have to be delivered by another chicken. Or something. The slivovitz was excellent, though.
  revliz | Aug 8, 2015 |
Author, dissident, father of a nation

Havel: A Life by Michael Zantovsky (Grove Press, $30)

The Czech Republic would, in all likelihood, still exist without Václav Havel, but it would no doubt be a very different nation. Michael Zantovsky, a Czech diplomat and Havel’s former press secretary, undertakes a definitive biography of the philosopher-playwright who became the father of the Velvet Revolution in Havel: A Life.

Starting with his somewhat privileged childhood—Havel’s well-heeled family lost their wealth after the 1948 Communist takeover in 1948—he came into adulthood under the oppressive regime and was already an established writer and public intellectual during the Prague Spring of 1968. As a dissident, he was a remarkably popular figure, and Zantovsky stresses those qualities that helped him succeed in bringing about a peaceful transition to democracy.

The story of a fascinating person, this biography may suffer from the close relationship that Zantovsky had with Havel, who died in 2011, but it’s certainly the first serious look we’ve had at a remarkable life.

Reviewed on Lit/Rant: www.litrant.tumblr.com ( )
  KelMunger | Feb 13, 2015 |
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Examines the life of a man who rose from being an outcast and prisoner during Communist rule to becoming the last president of Czechoslovakia, the first president of the newly democratic Czech Republic and a human-rights activist.

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