Havel at Columbia [staging site]

Bibliography: Selected Sources

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Keane, John. Václav Havel : A Political Tragedy in Six Acts. New York: Basic Books, 2000. Havel’s life up 1999 (plus an imagined scene of a grand state funeral) told frankly through a series of exemplary scenes, with some historical contextualization. CLIO link

Kriseová, Eda. Václav Havel : the Authorized Biography. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1993. An official account of Havel’s life up to the early 1990s written by a friend and fellow former dissident. CLIO link

Rocamora, Carol. Acts of Courage: Václav Havel’s Life in the Theater. Hanover, NH: Smith and Kraus, 2004. An in-depth recounting of Havel’s life from the 1950s to 2002, from the perspective of his identity as a dramatist. CLIO link


Works by Havel


Original Czech Editions

The following bibliography of Havel’s plays provides information on the first print publications in Czech of Havel’s plays, including stage, radio and television plays. It does not include his early collaborative projects. Žebráčká opera [The Beggar’s Opera], Audience, Vernisáž [Private View or Unveiling], Horský hotel [Mountain Hotel], Protest, Chyba [Mistake], Largo desolato, Pokoušení [Temptation] and Asanace [Redevelopment] appeared in samizdat editions before they appeared in print editions abroad. A more complete publication history of each play, including samizdat editions, can be found in the notes to Spisy 2: Hry [Writings. Volume 2: Plays] (Prague: Torst, 1999). Each of the plays listed here can also be found in this volume, along with commentary, introductions, and variants. The years given in brackets after each entry indicate the years of composition. Production histories can be found in Helena Albertová’s “A List of Theatrical Productions of the Plays of Václav Havel” in Václav Havel: A Citizen and a Playwright (Prague: Divadelní ústav, 1999).

Havel, Václav. Rodinný večer [A Family Evening]. In Spisy 2: Hry [Writings. Volume 2: Plays], 7-35. Prague: Torst, 1999. [1959]

—. Zahradní slavnost [The Garden Party]. Divadlo [Theater] 14, no. 7 (Sept. 1963): 1-16. [1962-3]

—. Vyrozumění [The Memorandum]. Divadlo [Theater] 16, no. 8 (Oct. 1965): 86-107. 1960-5]

—. Anděl strážný [Guardian Angel]. Amatérská scéna 29, no. 12 (1992): 10-11. [1968]

—. Motýl na anténě [A Butterfly on the Antenna]. In Spisy 2: Hry [Writings. Volume 2: Plays], 219-255. Prague: Torst, 1999. [1968]

—. Ztížená možnost soustředění [The Increased Difficulty of Concentration]. Divadlo [Theater] 19, no. 5 (May 1968): 85-99. [1966-8]

—. Spiklenci [The Conspirators]. In Hry 1970-1976: Z doby zakáznosti [Plays 1970-1976: From the Time of Prohibition]. Toronto: Sixty-Eight Publishers Corp., 1977. [1970-1]

—. Žebráčká opera [The Beggar’s Opera]. In Hry 1970-1976. [1972]

—. Audience. Svědectví 13, no. 51 (1976): 525-536. [1975]

—. Vernisáž [Private View or Unveiling]. In Hry 1970-1976. [1975]

—. Horský hotel [Mountain Hotel]. In Hry 1970-1976. [1970-76]

—. Protest. In Hry: Soubor her z let 1963-1988 [Plays: A Collection of Plays from 1963-1988]. Prague: Lidové noviny, 1992. [1978]

—. Chyba [Mistake]. Svědectví 18, no. 69 (1983): 149-155. [1983]

—. Largo desolato. Svědectví 19, no. 74 (1985): 385-418. [1984]

—. Pokoušení [Temptation]. Munich: Obrys/Kontur-PmD, 1986. [1985]

—. Asanace [Redevelopment]. Munich: Obrys/Kontur-PmD, 1988. [1987]

—. Zítra to spustíme [Tomorrow We’ll Start It Up]. Rozrazil 1 (1988). [1988]

English-Translation Editions

Havel, Václav. The Beggar’s Opera. Translated by Paul Wilson. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2001. CLIO link

—. Selected Plays 1963-1983. London: Faber & Faber, 1992. Includes The Memorandum, The Increased Difficulty of Concentration, and Protest, translated by Vera Blackwell; Audience and Mistake, translated by George Theiner; Unveiling, translated by Jan Novák. CLIO link

—. Selected Plays 1984-1987. London: Faber & Faber, 1992. Includes Largo Desolato, translated by Tom Stoppard; Temptation, translated by George Theiner; Redevelopment, translated by James Saunders. CLIO link

—. The Vaněk Plays: Four Authors, One Character, edited by Marketa Goetz-Stankiewicz. Vancouver: The University of British Columbia Press, 1987. Includes Audience and Unveiling, translated by Jan Novák; Protest, translated by Vera Blackwell. CLIO link



Havel, Václav. Spisy 1: Básně; Antikódy [Writings, Vol. 1: Poems; Anticodes] . Prague: Torst, 1999.


Collected Essays and Other Texts

In Czech

Havel, Václav. Spisy [Writings]. Prague: Torst, 1999. Volume 3: Eseje a jiné texty z let 1953-1969 [Essays and Other Texts from 1953-1969]. Volume 4: Eseje a jiné texty z let 1970-1989 [Essays and Other Texts from 1970-1989]. Volume 5: Dopisy Olze [Letters to Olga]. Volume 6: Projevy z let 1990-1992; Letní přemítání [Addresses from 1990-1992; Summer Meditations]. Volume 7: Projevy a jiné texty z let 1992-1999 [Addresses and Other Texts from 1992-1999].

—. Prosím stručně. Rozhovor s Karlem Hvížďalou, poznámky, dokumenty [Briefly, Please: An Interview with Karl Hvížďala, Notes, Documents]. Prague: Gallery, 2006. CLIO link

English Translations

Havel, Václav. The Anatomy of a Reticence: Eastern European Dissidents and the Peace Movement in the West. Stockholm: The Charta 77 Foundation, 1986. CLIO link

—. The Art of the Impossible: Politics as Morality in Practice. Translated by Paul Wilson et al. New York: Knopf, 1997. CLIO link

—. Disturbing the Peace: A Conversation with Karl Hvížďala. Translated by Paul Wilson. New York: Vintage Books, 1991. CLIO link

—. Letters to Olga. Translated by Paul Wilson. New York: Knopf, 1988. CLIO link

—. "An Open Letter to Dr. Husak, General Secretary of the Czechoslovak Communist Party." In Vclav Havel or Living in Truth, edited by Jan Vladislav. London: Faber & Faber, 1986. Online at Havel's official site

—. Open Letters: Selected Writings, 1965-1990. Selected and Edited by Paul Wilson. New York: Knopf, 1991. CLIO link

—. "The Power of the Powerless." Translation by Paul Wilson. London: Hutchinson, 1985. Online at Havel's official site

—. Summer Meditations: On Politics, Morality and Civility in a Time of Transition. Translated by Paul Wilson. London, Boston: Faber and Faber, 1992. CLIO link



Brooks, D. Christopher. “The Art of the Political: Havel's Dramatic Literature as Political-Theory.” East European Quarterly 39, no. 4 (Winter 2005): 491-522. A discussion relating Havel’s plays to his political thought. Full text through ProQuest (subscription required).

Burian, Jarka. “Václav Havel.” In Leading Creators of Twentieth-Century Czech Theatre, 184-203. London: Routledge, 2002. A brief overview of Havel’s theatrical work as related to events in his life. CLIO link

Goetz-Stankiewicz, Marketa and Phyllis Carey, editors. Critical Essays on Václav Havel. New York: G.K. Hall, 1999. Includes an introduction, 23 essays on Havel by various authors, photographs, glossary of names and terms, and brief English-language bibliography. Essays consider Havel as a playwright, political thinker, and president, and also give accounts of personal encounters with Havel. CLIO link

Meche, Jude R. “Female Victims and the Male Protagonist in Vaclav Havel's Drama.” Modern Drama 40, no. 4 (Winter 1997): 468-76. An examination of the female characters in Havel’s drama as foils of bureaucratic rigidity. Full text through ProQuest (subscription required).

Schamschula, W. “Václav Havel: Between the Theater of the Absurd and Engaged Theater.” In Fiction and Drama in Eastern and Southeastern Europe: Evolution and Experiment in the Postwar Period, edited by Henrik Birnbaum and Thomas Eekman, 337-348. Columbus: Slavica, 1980. CLIO link

Trensky, Paul I. “Vaclav Havel and the Language of the Absurd.” Slavic and East European Journal 13 (1969): 42-65. An analysis of the patterns of absurd language used in The Garden Party and Memorandum, and a brief discussion of Havel’s relation to other European absurdist playwrights. Full text through JSTOR (subscription required).



Czech Drama

Burian, Jarka. Modern Czech Theatre: Reflector and Conscience of a Nation. Studies in Theatre History & Culture. Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 2000. CLIO link

Goetz-Stankiewicz, Marketa. The Silenced Theatre: Czech Playwrights without a Stage. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1979. Chapter 2 focuses on Czech absurd drama. CLIO link

Trensky, Paul I. Czech Drama since World War II. Columbia Slavic Studies. White Plains, NY: M.E. Sharpe, 1978. Includes a chapter placing the absurd trend in Czech drama in an international context. Other chapters give the specifically Czech social and political context for post-war drama, especially the drama of the late 1960s. CLIO link


Resistance and Charter 77

Falk, Barbara J. The Dilemmas of Dissidence in East-Central Europe: Citizen Intellectuals and Philosopher Kings. Budapest: Central European University, 2003. A political-theoretical study of communist-era dissidence in Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Poland. Chapter 6, “Opposition Intellectuals in Czechoslovakia,” largely focuses on Havel, but also considers the work of Jan Patočka, Václav Benda, and Charter 77 as a collective. Includes extensive bibliography. CLIO link

Skilling, H. Gordon. Charter 77 and Human Rights in Czechoslovakia. London; Boston: Allen & Unwin, 1981. Nine detailed chapters on the history of the Charter as a document and as a movement, based on information available in 1981. Several important documents are reproduced. CLIO link

Skilling, H. Gordon and Paul Wilson, editors. Civic Freedom in Central Europe: Voices from Czechoslovakia. London: Macmillan, 1991. An anthology of essays by prominent Charter 77 signatories, collected by the editors in 1987. Provides a survey of the various perspectives and concerns connected with the movement. CLIO link

Tucker, Aviezer, Karel Jakes, Marian Kiss, Ivana Kupcova, Ivo Losman, David Ondracka, Jan Outly, Vera Styskalikova. “From Republican Virtue to Technology of Political Power: Three Episodes of Czech Nonpolitical Politics.” Political Science Quarterly 115, no. 3 (Autumn 2000): 421-445. A discussion of the strategy based on “nonpolitical” moral resistance to power, and the use of this strategy in Czechoslovakia and the Czech Republic from 1978 to 1999. Full text through JSTOR (subscription required).


Political Thought and Philosophy

Hammer, Dean C. “Václav Havel’s Construction of a Democratic Discourse: Politics in a Postmodern Age.” Philosophy Today 39 (Summer 1995): 119-30. A discussion of Havel’s political vocabulary, especially his preference for a transcendent moral responsibility over postmodern relativism.

Ponturo, James F. Václav Havel: Civic Responsibility in the Postmodern Age. Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 2004. A political-science perspective on Havel’s multi-faceted career. Includes a brief biographical overview as well as chapters dealing with Havel as philosopher, dissident, playwright and political actor. CLIO link

Tucker, Aviezer. The Philosophy and Politics of Czech Dissidence from Patočka to Havel. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2000. A study of the phenomenological basis for Havel’s thought as well as that of his mentor Jan Patočka. CLIO link

multiple authors. FREE THE CZECHS, The New York Review of Books , December 6, 1979. An open letter to the editors from the members of PEN American Center and the US Helsinki Watch Committee calling for the release of the eleven men and women of Charter 77 detained by Czechoslovak government. Signatures include Adrian DeWind, Alan Schwartz, Alfred M. Freedman, Allen Ginsberg, Arthur Miller, Aryeh Neier, Barbara Scott Preiskel, Bernard Fischman, Bernard Malamud, Beverly Sills, Bruno Bitker, Christian Anfinsen, Daniel Nathans, Diana Trilling, Don Fraser, Donald Barthelme, Dore Ashton, E. L. Doctorow, Earl Callen, Edward Albee, Edward Kline, Eric Bentley, Frances Farenthold, Frances FitzGerald, Glenn Watts, Harvey Shapiro, Jack Greenberg, Jeri Laber, Jerome J. Shestack, Jerome Wiesner, Jerzy Kosinski, John Carey, John D. Leonard, John Gutfreund, Jose Cabranes, Joseph Chaikin, Joseph Papp, Karen Kennerly, Kenneth Clark, Kirkpatrick Sale, Kurt Vonnegut, Lawrence Hughes, Leon Lipson, Marvin E. Frankel, Michael Sovern, Michael Weller, Nat Hentoff, Orville Schell, Oscar Schachter, Osgood Nichols, Patricia Barnes, Paul Flory, Philip Roth, Richard Sennett, Robert Crichton, Robert L. Bernstein, Robert McKay, Robert Penn Warren, Rose Styron, Susan Sontag, Toni Morrison, Willard Gaylin, William Styron, Winthrop Knowlton. link to letter



Bridges, Peter. “Playwrights, Presidents, and Prague.” The Virginia Quarterly Review 79, no. 1 (Winter 2003): 97-107. A comparison of Václav Havel with the first Czechoslovak President T.G. Masaryk, as well Karel Čapek, a prominent interwar writer and associate of Masaryk’s. Full text through ProQuest (subscription required).

Fawn, Rick. “Symbolism in the diplomacy of Czech President Vaclav Havel.” East European Quarterly 33, no. 1 (March 1999): 1-19. A discussion of the symbolic rhetoric in Havel’s writings and speeches on foreign policy. The article focuses on Havel’s Czechoslovak presidency from 1989 to 1992, with some consideration of his presidency of the Czech Republic as well. Full text through ProQuest (subscription required).

Shepherd, Robin H. E. Czechoslovakia: The Velvet Revolution and Beyond. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2000. Considers the major events and political dynamics at play in Czechoslovakia, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia during the years of Havel’s presidency. CLIO link


Velvet Revolution

Civic Forum (Občanské fórum). “What We Want: The Programme Principles Issued by the Czechoslovak Civic Forum.” East European Reporter 4, 50-1.

Garton Ash, Timothy. The Magic Lantern: The Revolution of '89 Witnessed in Warsaw, Budapest, Berlin, and Prague. Personal accounts of the 1989 revolutions, by a veteran observer of Eastern Europe. CLIO link

Kumar, Krishan. “The Revolutions of 1989: Socialism, Capitalism, Democracy.” Theory and Society 21, no. 3 (June 1992): 309-356. The Velvet Revolution is discussed in the broader context of the 1989 revolutions, as well as the context of international political thought. Full text through JSTOR (subscription required).

Luers, William. “Czechoslovakia: Road to Revolution.” Foreign Affairs 69, no. 2 (Spring 1990): 77-98. Analysis of the causes of the Velvet Revolution by William Luers , the former U.S. Ambassador to Czechoslovakia. Full text through Business Source Premier (subscription required).

Oslzlý, Petr. “On Stage with the Velvet Revolution.” TDR 34, no. 3 (Autumn, 1990): 97-108. The text of a conference paper given at the University of Lancaster in 1990 by one of the theatrical participants of the Revolution. Places the symbolism of the Velvet Revolution in the context of Czech theater. Full text through JSTOR (subscription required).


Velvet Divorce

Eyal, Gil. The Origins of Post-Communist Elites: From Prague Spring to the Dissolution of Czechoslovakia. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 2003. An interpretation of the Velvet Divorce as a strategy of emergent political elites.

Innes, Abbey. “The Breakup of Czechoslovakia: The Impact of Party Development on the Separation of the State.” East European Politics and Societies 11, no. 3 (Fall 1997): 393-435. Seeks to explain the dissolution of Czechoslovakia as a result of the rise of multi-party politics.

Kraus, Michael and Allison Stanger, editors and translators. Irreconcilable Differences?: Explaining Czechoslovakia’s Dissolution. Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 2000. An anthology of essays examining the breakup of Czechoslovakia from various perspectives.

Musil, Jiří, editor. The End of Czechoslovakia. Budapest: Central European University Press, 1995. Essays by Czech, Slovak, French and American scholars considering various aspects of the Velvet Divorce. CLIO link

Stanger, Allison. “Czechoslovakia’s Dissolution as an Unintended Consequence of the Velvet Constitutional Revolution.” East European Constitutional Review (Fall 1996): 40-6. Seeks to explain how the language of the 1968 federal constitution made the Velvet Divorce possible.

Stein, Eric. Czecho / Slovakia: Ethnic Conflict, Constitutional Fissure, Negotiated Breakup. Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press, 1997. A study of the breakup of Czechoslovakia, from the constitutional negotiations in 1990 to the Velvet Divorce of 1993.



Form 2000 ”: http://www.forum2000.cz/. The Forum 2000 was founded in 1996 as a joint initiative of the Czech President Vclav Havel, Japanese philanthropist Yohei Sasakawa, and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Elie Wiesel. It aims to identify the key issues facing civilization and to explore ways in which to prevent escalation of conflicts that have religion, culture or ethnicity as their primary components.

Living in the Truth ”: http://www.livinginthetruth.com/. An appreciation site dedicated to Havel, with news, articles, and links.

Moreorless. “ Václav Havel Hero File .” http://www.moreorless.au.com/heroes/havel.html. Gives background and year-by-year biographical notes.

The Official Website of Václav Havel .” http://www.vaclavhavel.cz/index.php?setln=2. Havel’s authorized site. Includes timeline, bibliographies, and full text of selected essays.

Project Syndicate . “Contributors: Václav Havel.” http://www.project-syndicate.org/contributor/31. Links to newspaper opinion pieces written by Havel.

Radio Prague. “ Václav Havel .” http://www.radio.cz/en/article/36022. A short biography of Havel from the English-language service of Český rozhlas [Czech Broadcasting]. Page also contains links to related Radio Prague articles.

Shipley, Bill. “ From Prisoner to President—A Tribute .” http://www.artforamnesty.org/aoc/biog_havel.html. A tribute to Havel at the website of Art for Amnesty’s Ambassador of Conscience Award, which Havel won in 2003.

Untitled Theater Co. #61. “ The Havel Festival .” http://www.untitledtheater.com/havel/havel-festival.html. Website for the Untitled Theater Co. #61’s festival presenting all of Havel’s plays, in honor of the playwright’s 70th birthday. The festival takes place from mid-October to late-November, 2006 in New York City. The cite includes a timeline of Havel’s life, synopses of the plays and performance information.