Friday, December 23, 2011

Vaclav Havel

Vaclav Havel, who is to be buried today, belonged to that rarest of species, the leader who took on an empire, and won without firing a shot. He was a playwright with roots in absurdist and surrealist literature. Like his fellow Czech national, Franz Kafka, he realized that the absurdity and misery reflected in his work came not from his psyche, but from the reality of life under the heel of arbitrary and lawless power. For Kafka, it was the dying absolute monarchy of Austria-Hungary. For Havel, it started with Hitler's occupation and extended into the long years of Soviet domination. The basic requirements of his literary work forced him into politics. The very absurdity that Havel wrote about could be turned back upon the quisling regime and create a space where people could breathe freely, if only for a moment. He needed that little moment of space in order to write. Almost against his will, he found himself involved in dissident politics, and at the forefront of the effort to end the Soviet occupation of his country.

While the North Koreans wail over the death of their god king, and others mourn for Christopher Hitchens, I'm saving my grief for Havel who not only talked the talk, but walked the walk.

Havel was a lifelong Zappa fan.

1 comment:

JCF said...

A great man. RIP.