Book Review: "The Art of the impossible", by Vaclav Havel
Who was Vaclav Havel? He was a leading figure in the "Velvet Revolution", that propelled Czechoslovakia to Independence from the Soviet Union in the 1990s. Serving as the newly liberated country's president, Havel suggested that politics should be a forum for the practice of friendship. As astounding as this may sound to our jaded ears, it was in keeping with Havel's gentle, wise, and noble character.
Seeing the world through Havel's eyes (which this book does) is an uplifting experience—he gives us hope. Havel's book, "The Art of the impossible" consists of thirty-four speeches and one article, all of which he wrote.
It begins with a speech given in Prague (Jan. 1, 1990), and concludes with a speech also given in Prague (Oct. 4, 1996). In between are speeches he gave all over the world, before audiences in New York and New Delhi, Oslo and Tokyo, Jerusalem and Athens, Dublin and Barcelona, and many other notable places.
During his long life, Václav Havel (pronounced Vatslave Hah’vel) saw the worst and best in mankind. When he was born (Oct 5, 1936) Europe was fast falling under the evil spell of Nazism. At its core was venomous hatred for all that did not conform to its corrupt vision of mankind. As a young man, having become one of the world’s foremost playwrights, essayist and dissidents, Havel witnessed his nation and Eastern Europe, fall under the death-grip of another "ism"-- Soviet Communism. After its collapse, Havel was elected president of greater Czechoslovakia, and presided over its breakup (into the Czech Republic, which he continued to lead, and into Slovakia).
Havel saw a connection between the two “isms” (Nazism and Communism) which he called “tribal togetherness.” They are “people who are weak . . . who prefer dissolving in the anonymity of the crowd, where a leader does all the thinking for them, who accept the identity of the pack rather than engage in the difficult process of seeking, building, and defending their identity as individuals—such people made possible the emergence of Nazism in Europe.
Communist collectivism had a similar background . Both inevitably produced totalitarian systems that trampled the very foundation of humanity . . . ."
Having led his nation with courage, humanity and dignity, Havel died on the morning of 18 December 2011, at age 75, at his country home in Hrádeček.