Thursday, July 23, 2015

republic of letters


"The non-violent revolution that took place in Czechoslovakia in 1989 irrevocably changed Europe -- and it was playwright and dissident Václav Havel who emerged as the voice of the crowds of Wenceslas Square."
> The Guardian

--------------------------- [excerpt, Reading Jackie, William Kuhn] -------------------- Her collaboration with Peter Sís led her to go incognito with Maurice Tempelsman to Prague in 1991 to meet the Czech president, Václav Havel.  Sís had first started talking to her about Havel

before the Communist system fell apart.  It fascinated her that a playwright like Havel might actually replace the Communist leadership.  It seemed as if a true "republic of letters" was in the process of being born.


Non-violent protesters in Prague, facing armed policemen with flowers

Sís told her a story that delighted her of all the new Czech leaders coming to New York.  Some of them were, like Havel himself, poets, playwrights, and dissident intellectuals. 

Before they began their round of official visits, someone told them, to their surprise, "Now, you must have a jacket and tie."  They were all wearing leather jackets. 

Jackie so loved the trip to Prague

and the meeting with Havel that she started work on a book (one that never came to be published) that was to be a recounting of the Czech "Velvet Revolution," whereby the Communist system was overthrown nonviolently and writers occupied the seat of power....

...Sís said..."...In fact she was one of the most inspiring editors I ever worked with.  She was always flying up there in the air and curious about all subjects."  She was as free intellectually as she encouraged him to be in his work.  [He said] "Every artist gets to meet his Medici"....

{Reading Jackie.  William Kuhn.  2010 - Doubleday.}


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