Havel: A Life
The definitive biography of Václav Havel – writer, dissident, and Czech president – that chronicles his journey from playwright to national leader, intimately recounted by his former press secretary and long-time friend.
Václav Havel was one of the most prominent figures of the twentieth century: an iconoclast and intellectual, artist turned political leader, president of a first united and later divided nation, and international human rights activist. Havel: A Life is an astounding portrait of this remarkable man who took a momentous step from the theatrical stage, to the world stage and in the process transformed his country and influenced minds across continents.
This intimate biography begins with the early years of Havel’s privileged childhood in Prague, and his life as an outcast under Communist rule. Resilient and dogged, he aspired to a career in the arts as a playwright and an essayist. However, his outspoken involvement during the Prague Spring led to the harsh censorship of his works, and five years in and out of prisons.
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. His leadership of Charter 77, his unflagging belief in the power of the powerless, and his galvanising personality bolstered him into a pivotal role as the leader of the Velvet Revolution in 1989. Over the next fourteen years, he continued to break through barriers, as the last president of Czechoslovakia, and the first president of the Czech Republic.
As one of Havel’s closest friends and as his political ally, press secretary and advisor, Michael Žantovský was a rare witness to this extraordinary life. With unprecedented access to private correspondence, documents, and interviews, Žantovský presents a powerful, engaging and revolutionary account of a giant among men.