Vaclav Havel passed away. The official funeral was relevant to his significance and former position. In the Cathedral of St. Vitus many of his friends, collaborators, and top politicians gathered as well as a lot of people who were scared to meet him thirty years ago. In front of the Cathedral the nation jangled their keys (as they did in 1989) and Wenceslas Square was covered with candles. The symbol of our new freedom has gone—his immense contributions for building and preserving that freedom were invaluable.
First and foremost, V.H. was a very good artist, philosopher and playwright. We mostly consider his dramas as examples of absurdist theatre. But life under a totalitarian system was a different kind of absurdity—awful, dangerous, threatening and filled with a ridiculous kind of humor at the same time. V.H. lived his life in a series of paradoxes: he didn’t want to be a politician, yet he became one; he preferred a quiet, private life, but he didn’t have it. These paradoxes can be easily recognized in his plays, speeches and essays. The fight for freedom and human rights was, however, for him as important as his own creative work. During his quite dramatic life he never lost his sense of humor, irony and self-irony. These aspects of his personality were also quite visible in the best moments of his plays.
In 1997, when I worked as the Rector of the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague (AMU), V.H. invited all rectors of Czech universities to the Villa Amalia, a part of Lany castle (summer residence of our Presidents) to discuss the current problems and perspectives of our higher educational system. Before our evening meeting, V.H. visited the Western Bohemian region. He arrived by helicopter. After a couple of hours of discussion it was time for dinner. V.H. asked the session for permission to watch the TV news during dinner. The TV moderator spoke about the different places our President visited during the day, then continued with other news. Dinner was served just at the moment when the moderator announced the discovery of a chicken plague on a Western Bohemian farm—we looked down and on our plates was chicken. I still remember the sparks in V.H.’s eyes…I think that this might have been a typical situation in one of his plays.
Despite the whirlwinds of his life, V.H. still kept his brilliant, healthy intellect and common sense—traits which defined and accompanied him throughout his life. One of the greatest men we had in our history has passed. I am convinced that his legacy will stay forever like a monument in large Capitals: V.H. – Very Human, Vital Humor, Virtue and Honor.
Professor Jaroslav Malina, HonDDes