Václav Havel: About Czech Drama

"Writers, playwrights, poets and musicians occupy a special position in this country, for they have played an important part during times of suppressed rights and freedoms, and times when freedom of expression had to seek alternative ways to reach its audience. Since its origins in antiquity, drama has been predestined to lend voice to that which cannot be expressed directly, so that in times when Czech national life was suppressed, drama played an important part in the emancipation, education and political representation of the nation. When establishing a modern nation, drama carried a suggestive message that did not find its expression in the realm of politics. National self-awareness and the establishment of cultural, entrepreneurial and later political elites contributed eventually to the creation of a modern independent state.

Drama changed significantly in the course of the twentieth century – both in term of form and means of expression. At the very core of drama, however, sensibility and awareness of hidden and latent meanings remained anchored. This dimension of drama has come alive in times when freedom of speech was suppressed, when fundamental human rights and civic freedoms were denied, in times of repression and strict censorship. In the twentieth century, we witnessed these phenomena first under the Nazi occupation and subsequently under the totalitarian Communist regime. For half a century, theatre, much like other branches of art, became suspicious and was an oft-persecuted and illegal activity, only because it wanted to fulfil precisely the purpose for which it originated and exists: to offer room for freedom of expression, to be a crossroads of fantasy, a key to sense and non-sense of things and meaning, inspiration and a place where social self-reflection crystallises.

We mustn’t forget that even in these days and months, there are authors and theatre ensembles around the world who are banished from the public sphere, persecuted and sentenced to many years in prison through manipulated or thoroughly fabricated trials. This is because drama as a creative process is, in its substance, an expression of the freedom of the human spirit, a totally anti-totalitarian expression. In this context, drama should feature on the agenda of the Czech EU Presidency."

Václav Havel

Václav Havel

Václav Havel

born on 5 October 1936 in Prague

writer and playwright, was one of the first spokesmen of Charter 77, a leading figure behind the political changes in November 1989, the last President of Czechoslovakia and the first President of the Czech Republic.

Václav Havel is the author of several excellent and world-famous absurd plays, such as The Garden Party (1963), The Memorandum (1965), or The Increased Difficulty of Concentration (1968). In the 1970s, he spoke out against the repression under the then Communist regime in Czechoslovakia. The culmination of his activities was the publication of Charter 77 in January 1977, a text that lent its name and character to a movement of protesting Czechoslovak citizens. Václav Havel was one of the founders of this initiative and one of its first three spokesmen. He was imprisoned three times for his political views and spent almost five years in prison.

In November 1989, Havel became the leading figure behind the political changes and was elected President in December. His last Presidential mandate expired in February 2003. Since then, he has dedicated his time to the protection of human rights in the world. As a co-founder of the Dagmar and Václav Havel Foundation VIZE 97, he supports a number of humanitarian, health and education projects. Václav Havel has received many state accolades, international awards and honorary doctorates for his literary work, views and life-long effort to protect human rights.

Last update: 16.8.2011 16:02

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