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Letters to Olga: June 1979-September 1982 Paperback – Apr 1989

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
A hero of freedom in prison writes to his wife 15 Mar. 2011
By Shalom Freedman - Published on
Format: Paperback
Havel is a hero of the Czech struggle for political freedom. These letters are written while he is serving a four - year sentence. He was allowed to write one letter per week, and these are letters he wrote to his wife Olga. They reportedly do not contain the details of the most severe treatment he was given. The letters after all are censored. They show Havel to be a concerned, dedicated husband and 'thinking person' who is trying to not only get through the prison term without falling apart but understand in a better way the meaning of his own situation. They are informed by a strong sense of responsibility which is reenforced when his brother Ivan sends him writings of the philosopher Levinas. These writings focus on the idea that one can know and be responsible for oneself only when one knows and is responsible for the 'other'. Havel in these letters appears mature, sober and sane. What is surprising however is that the Letters are without great poetic passion. There is not a sense of overwhelming love between him and his wife. Much of the writing is concerned with details of everyday life, of how to practically get through the prison term. My sense is their real importance is in revealing the political and philosophical thought of Havel.
4 of 18 people found the following review helpful
Havel? 10 May 2000
By courtney J angermeier - Published on
Format: Hardcover
First of all, I just gotta say "Don't you love those Czechs?" I mean what other country would have a poet/playwrite/activist/ex-con president? Sorta makes me want to emigrate. Anyway, Havel's volume of letters to his wife, Olga, from prison in the late seventies is quietly revealing. I am used to his electric political comentaries and dark absurdist theater and this hollow correspondence came as a shock. Perhaps, most of all it was the shallow loveless relationship between he and Olga that surprised me. In my mind Havel is a passionate larger-than-life figure. I wanted, and expected, to discover a living and organic relationship in these pages and was utterly disapointed in that respect. What we see, and aparantly what they have (had? I dunno) is very dry, businesslike, and unmoving. I wonder if expending so much energy in the public and artistic sphere leaves little or nothing for private relationships. Perhaps that's what's going on, perhaps it is more complex or subtle. Whatever the reasons, the book was interesting as well as dissapointing in that it revealed a totally new and unexpected side of Havel. This book humanized him. As well as the troubled, or maybe just bizarre marraige, I got to hear him struggle with his daily frustrations and desires-food, health, writing, keeping himself educated and interested in life. There IS a good bit of of political writing in the letters, (it's pretty obvious that most of them were not just for Olga)including some detailed descriptions of the resistance movement, that are really as fine as any of his other writings. I could put it down to the dustjacket, but the whole had to me this sad tan feeling; heavy, still-like empty dusty rooms at that time of day where the light is all saturated. Well written and translated, all in all an interesting read.
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