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Insight with Michael Žantovský: Havel and the Velvet Revolution

22 OCTOBER 2014 - November seems to be the month when everything happens. A special highlight is the publication of Havel: A Life, a thorough biography of Václav Havel written by Michael Žantovský and published by Grove Press. As one of Havel’s closest friends and as his political ally, press secretary, and advisor, Michael Žantovský, who is the current Czech Ambassador to the UK, was a rare witness to this extraordinary life. With unprecedented access to private correspondence, documents, and interviews, Žantovský presents a powerful, engaging, and revelatory account of this towering political and artistic figure.

The book will be publicly presented by H.E. Michael Žantovský on Monday Nov 3 at the Frontline Club, who will be joined by Edward Lucas of The Economist to discuss Havel´s political achievements, contradictions, his extraordinary life and legacy.

Extract:

Havel: A Life 
By Michael Žantovský

During Christmas, in the field across the road from their house, the police constructed a small watchtower on stilts, remotely resembling the Soviet moon walker device, the Lunochod, which is what Havel called it. There the police worked irregular shifts keeping an eye on the dangerous rebel.

Characteristically, Havel bore no grudge against his watchers, most of them local policemen and some of them clearly not happy about their monotonous and conspicuously absurd assignment. Prague, like any large city, provided a degree of anonymity to everyone, even the police. In a small place like Vlèice, the nearest village to Hrádeèek, people were aware of everything that was going on and mostly did not even pretend to be amused. Often, Havel would empathize with the policemen’s ordeal and go out of his way to make them feel at ease by engaging them in small talk that would compromise neither himself nor them. Trying to remain civil even in the face of this nuisance, he sometimes offered them coffee or tea, much to the disapproval of Olga who famously declared she would not give the police the name of their dog.

Other surprises were more bothersome. Although the authorities apparently much preferred Havel at his country place, where he could be more easily watched and isolated, they simultaneously tried to make his life there impossible by secretly sabotaging the central heating, water piping and plumbing in the house. In the end, there was little rationality in their behavior.

Box Office: 020 7479 8950
www.frontlineclub.com
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Admission: £12.50/ £10 concs.

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Part of Made in Prague Festival, 17 October - 30 November 2014

Part of Moments After – a three-week series of documentary screenings and debates reflecting topics of resistance, revolution and transformation, organised by The Czech Centre in cooperation with the Frontline Club.