Havel: A Life (Hardback)Michael Zantovsky (author)
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Vaclav Havel: iconoclast and philosopher-king, an internationally successful playwright who became a political dissident and then, reluctantly, a president. His pivotal role in the Velvet Revolution, the end of Communism and the birth of a modern, west-facing Czech Republic makes him a key figure of the twentieth century. He was a character of great contradictions, a courageous visionary who put his life at risk, a leader who inspired great loyalty; yet a man wracked with doubt, self-criticism, depression and despair. Above all he was an intellectual and artist, always true to himself, someone who never lost a profound sense of the absurd.
Michael Zantovsky was one of Havel's closest friends. They met as dissidents under Communism, and when a frail Havel was released from prison in May 1989 just months before the Velvet Revolution it was Zantovsky who carried his bag for him; during Havel's first presidency Zantovsky was his press secretary, speech writer and translator, and their friendship endured until Havel's death in 2011. He is therefore uniquely placed as Havel's biographer; a rare witness to this most extraordinary life.
Publisher: Atlantic Books
Number of pages: 560
Weight: 1053 g
Dimensions: 240 x 161 x 48 mm
Vaclav Havel is one of the paramount moral and political leaders of our time, and Michael Zantovsky has produced his definitive biography. Smart and exciting, it captures his greatness. Based on a long and close relationship, access to private letters, and many interviews, this deeply personal tale is both inspiring and filled with lessons for our time. * Walter Isaacson *
Havel was one of the most important intellectual-troublemaking statesmen of his time - a nonconformist, determined to live in truth, who questioned the system, his countrymen and himself constantly. No one is better suited than Zantovsky to describe, interpret, and analyze this moral giant. While providing us with a brilliantly informed intellectual and political history, Michael's own background as a psychiatrist, journalist, participant in the Velvet Revolution, key advisor and friend allows him to present the fullest picture of this great and complicated man. Zantovsky's biography of Havel is written with great understanding, candor, and love - and provides us with expert analysis of not only politics but also Havel's plays to boot. * Madeleine Albright *
Michael Zantovsky's biography of Vaclav Havel is a joy and an inspiration. Warm, wry, witty, it tells the life story of one of the greatest thinkers, writers and politicians of our time... Zantovsky has paid his friend the ultimate compliment of not writing a hagiography but a superbly nuanced biography which will never be equalled. * William Shawcross *
Michael Zantovsky has written an intimate and penetrating story of the man who symbolizes the end of the Cold War and the building of freedom and reconciliation in Europe. In Vaclav Havel, A Life,Zantovsky explores this most complex, heroic, and reluctant leader. Inspirational, moral, fun loving, theatrical, indecisive, conflicted and ultimately tragic, Havel had been architect of the Velvet Revolution and was Czechoslovakia's first post-cold war President. As Havel's close friend and collaborator for nearly 30 years, Zantovsky helps us admire and understand this philosopher king whose summons "Power of the Powerless" gave courage and hope to people around the globe. * William Luers, former US ambassador to Czechoslovakia *
An insightful biography of the unlikely leader of the Velvet Revolution. . . . As Havel's press secretary and adviser, Zantovsky admits his affection for his friend, but he presents a balanced, candid portrait of his subject's personality, achievements and inner demons. . . . Zantovsky brings an intimate perspective to this impressive biography of a man and history of a beleaguered nation. * Kirkus Reviews *
a vivid and intimate biography of the playwright-turned-statesman who came to embody the soul of the Czech nation... This moving, perceptive chronicle succeeds in showing the many dimensions of a towering 20th-century figure. * Publishers Weekly *
[Zantovsky] puts his words lightly on the page and allows them to merge into pictures. * Irish Independent *
...this huge book is a labour of love that doesn't flinch from describing the complexes that made life difficult for Havel and those around him. It is also a feat to have written in an English that shifts so naturally between firm observation, silly humour and regret...A contemporary hero perhaps has to be in the mould of Hamlet...There can't be a word for someone like that, but this book comes as close to it as possible. * David Pryce-Jones, Literary Review *
Zantovsky was an elegant writer before he turned diplomat and this is a clear-eyed portrait that never descends into gush or hagiography...Zantovsky's account of the velvet revolution is masterly. * Victor Sebestyen, The Spectator *
...the magnificent new biography by Michael Zantovsky * Standpoint *
Zantovsky's talents as a diplomat, not to mention his gifts as an observer and writer, are apparent in this beautifully written biography. To tell the story of the man who made "living in truth" his motto you must tell the truth about him and Zantovsky sets about the task with exquisite politeness and also with genuine love for the person whose faults he describes the better to show the greatness that transcended them...'Zantovsky's gifts as an observer and writer are apparent in this beautifully written biography. He tells this story with a flair for detail, almost as though he had stood at Havel's shoulder, taking notes * Roger Scruton, The Times *
A sympathetic, well-documented and highly readable account...[Zantovsky] is a fine story-teller; and there is a great story to be told...This life comes closer than any previous attempt to do justice to an extraordinary destiny which led Vaclav Havel from dissidence to the Castle - and back again. * Jacques Rupnik, TLS *
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