RIP, Vaclav Havel

Havel consistently put himself on the line, writing absurdist (and funny!) allegorical plays that kept him in constant hot water with the Soviet puppet regime.  As a peaceful protester, he found himself repeatedly in prison, but was never broken.  Seemingly bemused at becoming president, he eschewed jingoism and platitudes, showing compassion for enemies, and orchestrating a velvet divorce between the Czech Republic and Slovakia.

All the while never losing his avant garde sensibilities.  This is a guy who hired Frank Zappa to be his consultant on culture and trade.

(You know, it wouldn’t kill our politicians to look at Havel as a role-model, rather than one-upping each other over who’s more Reaganesque or Kennedyesque or whatever).

I saw Havel once in a small restaurant in the ‘burbs of Prague about 10 years ago, quietly dining with a friend. He was short, stocky and mustachioed (coinkidentally, not unlike his working class Polish counterpart, Lech Walesa), with no security detail in tow.  A giant, nonetheless.

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