Sunday, December 18, 2011

Vaclav Havel

The playwright who became a protester who became a president, Vaclav Havel, has died today. There is already much on the blogosphere about this Czech great, and there will be more in tomorrow's papers. But if you only read one thing connected with him, then I'd advise you make it the address he delivered to the Czechoslovakian people on 1 January 1990, which I've copied below. It was only a few days after his election as president, yet triumphalism and celebration is there little. Instead, Havel dwells on the horrors his country endured in the Twentieth Century, and — crucially — how they were permitted to come about. It is one of my favorite speeches, and it speaks now, as well as words can, of Havel's achievements and legacy:

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