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 More pieces of Havel's lively, subtle mind. Last summer, the oft-imprisoned absurdist playwright who's become president of Czechoslovakia decided that he owed his fellow citizens a concise account of where he stands now that ``the era of enthusiasm, unity, mutual understanding, and dedication to a common cause is over.'' In setting down his thoughts, the author necessarily grapples with the nuts-and-bolts detail of parliamentary governance in a nation-state where Czechs and Slovaks are again able to pursue conflicting sociopolitical interests. He nonetheless addresses great issues of obvious concern and relevance to thoughtful citizens of democracies (and tyrannies) throughout the Global Village. At the outset, for example, Havel argues that bedrock moral standards (which can be imposed by neither a constitution nor law, let alone directives) are the essential foundations of a viable country. He goes on to insist that policies (foreign as well as domestic) must grow not from ideology but from ideas--notably, from a coherent concept of human rights. The author also reflects on the responsibilities of independence, the shock of freedom (for those who have been subjugated), and the fragile estate of civility, common decency, and kindred values in the conduct of public affairs. When it comes to outlining his own credo, Havel is appreciably more elusive. While refusing to be typecast as a man of either the left or right, however, he exhibits a sense of steely purpose in his resolve to set Czechoslovakia on the road to fruitful self-government. Worldly-wise pensÇes from an intellectual who's as comfortable and effective on the hustings as in an ivory tower.

Pub Date: June 15th, 1992
ISBN: 0-679-41462-2
Page count: 192pp
Publisher: Knopf
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15th, 1992


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