Havel in His Element of the Absurd, Antinomies, and Nonsense Cover Image

Václav Havel v živlu absurdity, antinomií a nesmyslu
Havel in His Element of the Absurd, Antinomies, and Nonsense

Author(s): Miloš Havelka
Subject(s): History
Published by: Ústav pro soudobé dějiny AV ČR

Summary/Abstract: The author focuses on the archetypal plan of ‘comedy’ which Jiří Suk has borrowed from the literary theorist Northrop Frye as the interpretational framework for his book about Václav Havel. Moreover, the author questions the extent to which it can properly be used to understand Havel’s dramatizations of absurdity and the absurd nature of politics. In the author’s judgement, these would have been better classified under the genre of the grotesque, which consists in the tension between irreconcilable opposites and paradoxes. It is their existence and operation in Havel’s life and work in the period covered by the book, which Suk has so vividly demonstrated. From this book, one can reasonably conclude that Havel did not believe in a historical happy ending; indeed, history for him comprised open-ended and unplanned events. This way of intellectually relating to the world remained, according to the author, true of Havel also in his role as President after the Changes beginning in November 1989. It helped him to maintain his distance from reality at that time, and also to maintain ironic distance from himself; it is thematized, for example, in the antinomies of morals and politics or civil society and the multi-party system. Among the strong points of Suk’s work is how he has structured the wide range of primary sources according to their meaning and for his own purposes, by using his own meta-historical terms and also adopting metaphors such as the ‘restoration of order’ or the ‘grey zone’. Suk persuasively shows Havel as the central figure of Charter 77 and the Changes. His interpretations are well informed, and constitute the deepest probe into the topic so far.

  • Issue Year: XXI/2014
  • Issue No: 03
  • Page Range: 422-425
  • Page Count: 4
  • Language: Czech