Václav Havel

(1936–2011)
Playwright, writer, journalist and politician.

The most outstanding playwright of the past fifty years. The author of the Czech version of the absurd and existential comedy observing the issue of the identity and the relation between human beings and the system.

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Since the mid-1950s, Václav Havel published articles in literary and theatre periodicals; since the end of the 1950s, he worked as a stage technician in the ABC Theatre and since 1960, he was in the Theatre on the Balustrade. In 1959, he wrote his first one-act play An Evening with the Family, then The Garden Party (1963) followed, which played an important role in the development of Czech society in the 1960s. Other 1960s plays are The Memorandum (1965) or The Increased Difficulty of Concentration (1968). In the 1960s, he was the assistant to Alfréd Radok in the City Theatres of Prague). After graduating from dramaturgy at the AMU Theatre Faculty in Prague (1966), he became the dramaturg of the Theatre on the Balustrade, and later the head of the Independent Writers Club. Nor his texts, neither his plays could be officially published or staged in the 1970s and 1980s and their author was imprisoned several times (the German publishing house Rowohlt met the challenge of publishing practically the complete works by Havel at that time). The plays from the time of normalization, which have become classic, are Audience, Unveiling, Protest, Mountain Hotel, Largo desolato, Temptation, Redevelopment, and Tomorrow. After the revolutionary events of 1989, Václav Havel was repeatedly elected President and his experience is reflected in the drama Leaving (2007, film 2010, directed by Václav Havel), the only post-revolution feature play dealing with topics of power and its executors. Havel’s plays have been translated into many languages and have been staged all around the world. Several Havel’s non-theatre texts have been staged as well (Havel Writes to Husák, Pizh’duks, Five Letters to Olga, Anticodes, and others); some of the plays have been produced by the foreign TV stations. Václav Havel’s works and his life have been discussed in many Czech and foreign film and TV documentaries, and monographs. Havel’s complete Works were published by the Torst publishing house (8 volumes, 1999, the last volume in 2007). Václav Havel is the co-founder of The Dagmar and Václav Havel Foundation Vize 97 and Václav Havel Library.

Havel’s contribution to theatre and literature was appreciated by the Obie Award (1968, 1970 and 1984, New York), Thalia Award (2004), Jaroslav Seifert Award (2008), Karel Čapek Award (2008), Alfréd Radok Award (2009), and Franz Kafka Award (2010). Apart from the awards, he received many state awards, international prizes and honorary doctorates for his thinking and lifelong struggle to respect human rights.