To the Castle and back

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Alfred A. Knopf, May 15, 2007 - Political Science - 383 pages
11 Reviews

As writer, dissident, and statesman, Václav Havel played an essential part in the profound changes that occurred in Central Europe during the last decades of the twentieth century, and became a powerful intellectual and political force for the reestablishment of democratic principles and institutions. Now, in this intimate, illuminating memoir, he recollects the pivotal experiences and ideas of his remarkable life.

Known in his native Prague for his theatrical productions, and imprisoned for his anticommunist views, Havel emerged on the international stage in 1989 as the elected president of Czechoslovakia, and, in 1993, as president of the newly formed Czech Republic. He writes with eloquence and candor about his transition from playwright to politician, and the surreal challenges of governing a young democracy. But the scope of his writing extends far beyond the circumstances he faced in his own country. He shares his thoughts on the future of the EU, the reach of the American superpower, and the role of national identity in today’s world. He explains why he has come to believe the war in Iraq is a fiasco, and he discusses the reverberations from his initial support of the invasion.

This is also a personal book, in which he writes for the first time about his battle with lung cancer, the death of his first wife, Olga, and the controversy that has dogged his relationship with his second wife, the Czech actress Dagmar Veškrnová. And, finally, it is a meditation on mortality and on the difficulties of writing itself.

Infused with characteristic wit and well-honed irony, To the Castle and Back is a revelation of one of the most important figures of our time.

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Review: To the Castle and Back: Reflections on My Strange Life as a Fairy-Tale Hero

User Review  - Lance Crossley - Goodreads

I can guarantee, you will never find an autobiography of a politician like this. In an era where Hilary and everyone else comes out with self-promoting manifestos, Havel shows who he really is and ... Read full review

Review: To the Castle and Back: Reflections on My Strange Life as a Fairy-Tale Hero

User Review  - William Korn - Goodreads

I got this book several years ago, but got bogged down in the scattershot way the material is laid out. However, the content makes a great deal more sense to me now that I've read Tony Judt's Postwar. Read full review


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About the author (2007)

Václav Havel was born in Czechoslovakia in 1936. His plays have been produced around the world, and he is the author of many influential essays on totalitarianism and dissent. He was a founding spokesman for Charter 77 and served as president of the Czech Republic until 2003. He lives in Prague.

Paul Wilson lived in Czechoslovakia from 1967 to 1977. Since his return to Canada in 1978, he has translated more than twenty books of Czech literature into English, including novels by Josef Škvorecký, Bohumil Hrabal, and Ivan Klíma, and most of Václav Havel’s prose works. He is based in Toronto and works as a freelance writer and editor.

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