The life and times of Vaclav Havel has a legendary quality. He made the transition within a matter of months from a political prisoner to president of a democratic Czechoslovakia freed from the Soviet bloc.
This wasn’t as accidental as it might seem. Czech Communists were brutal, but temperamentally Havel was not prepared to give way to persecution. His defense was to write plays, comedies of the absurd with humor and vitality within them. Several of the plays had a dissident writer as hero and leader of unofficial opposition like himself. A favorite subject for mockery was Communist language designed to present falsehood as truth. In revenge, they had him stacking barrels in a brewery, and then in prison for various spells with a sentence of hard labor. Prison, he could write to his wife, was “a terrible bore,” an authentically absurd experience. The more they hounded him, the wider his reputation spread at home and abroad.
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