Václav Havel



  • (1936 - ) Czech playwright, essayist, and politician;president of Czechoslovakia (1989 - 92) and subsequently of theCzech Republic (1993 - 2003).

    Having been denied entry to a university drama course becauseof his 'bourgeois' background, Havel began his career in the theateras a stagehand and lighting technician; eventually he worked his wayup to become the resident playwright at the Balustrade Theatre inPrague, for which he wrote exclusively until 1968. Early absurdistdramas staged at the Balustrade included The Garden Party (1963),The Memorandum (1965), a satire on bureaucracy, and TheIncreased Difficulty of Concentration (1968). Following the Sovietinvasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968 Havel's plays could no longer bestaged publicly in his own country, although they continued to be producedin the West. He did, however, write a number of pieces for private performance,including the trilogy of one-act plays Audience, Protest,and Unveiling (1975 - 78).

    Havel's support of the Committee for the Defence of the UnjustlyPersecuted led to his being imprisoned from 1979 until 1983, by whichtime he had become recognized as a figurehead for the opposition movementin Czechoslovakia. Samuel Beckett wrote the play Catastrophe(1982) in his honour and the international writing community showeredhim with awards.

    Despite a further spell of imprisonment and almost constantsurveillance, Havel continued to write; Largo Desolato andTemptation both appeared in 1985 and were produced successfullyin the West. After the collapse of communism and his election to thepresidency, Havel continued his literary output, writing several books of essays. In 2007 Leaving, his first new play in some 18 years,was staged in Prague.