Václav Havel: in memoriam
In Memoriam 18 Dec 2011  EWR
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Václav Havel, playwright and president
Edward Lucas, Dec 18th 2011, Eastern Approaches (Economist.com)

EARLY in 1989, your correspondent, newly arrived in communist Czechoslovakia, passed an empty building in the Podoli district of Prague. Someone had written in the grime inside the window: “Svoboda Havlovi” [Freedom for Havel]. It was an interesting moment. The jailed playwright (as we used to call him) was behind bars for hooliganism following an opposition demonstration. The authorities could jail individuals. But they had lost the will, or the capability, to police the inside of shop windows.

The slogan in the window was particularly striking because shop windows were the theme of one of Mr Havel's best-known essays. In the "Power of the Powerless", he ponders the presence of a banal communist propaganda poster, reading "Workers of the world, unite!" in a greengrocer's window.

Why does he do it? What is he trying to communicate to the world? Is he genuinely enthusiastic about the idea of unity among the workers of the world? Is his enthusiasm so great that he feels an irrepressible impulse to acquaint the public with his ideals? Has he really given more than a moment's thought to how such a unification might occur and what it would mean?

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