VACLAV HAVEL by Eda Kriseová


The Authorized Biography
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 The story of V†clav Havel bears retelling in almost any form- -which is just as well, since his official biographer, a fellow dissident in the long struggle to free their country from communism, has taken full advantage of poetic license to cast her subject as the protagonist of a morality play. (In a laconic foreword, Havel impishly informs readers that the author's notably idolatrous view is her own and he ``can hardly judge to what extent it is true.'') While Kriseov†, a former journalist, might also have difficultly distinguishing between her discontinuous, deadly earnest narrative's facts and fancies at this remove, she's in arguably good company. Havel's own self-portrait, Disturbing the Peace (1990), and Summer Meditations (1992) are equally elusive, if appreciably more worldly-wise, on the score of reality. At any rate, the author offers a hit-or-miss account of her hero's odyssey, which stops short with his 1989 election as chief executive of a united Czechoslovakia in the wake of the so-called Velvet Revolution. A son of the Bohemian bourgeoisie, Havel became a playwright while serving an obligatory hitch in the armed forces. With frequent asides on writers (Beckett, Ionesco, Kafka, et al.) and others who influenced him, Kriseov† tracks Havel's subsequent involvement in little-theater productions of his work that, among other things, satirized the dehumanization of individual relationships, language, and social institutions. Havel's literary output and political opinions earned him no favor with authorities either before or after the Prague spring of 1968. Throughout the Iron Curtain era, then, he paid the dissenter's stiff price- -censorship, harassment, and imprisonment. In time, however, the repressive regime was toppled, sending Havel from a cell to a palace in what the author clearly believes is a fairy-tale triumph of good over evil. Haphazard hagiography that portrays Havel as a latter-day good King Wenceslaus. (Photographs--16 pp.--not seen)

Pub Date: Sept. 24th, 1993
ISBN: 0-312-10327-1
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: St. Martin's
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1st, 1993