The Václav Havel Library in Prague follows the US presidential library model in gathering and archiving materials relating to the late Czech dissident turned head of state. In the US, Havel’s legacy is promoted by sister organisation the Václav Havel Library Foundation, which is based at the Bohemian National Hall in New York. The latter is headed by Pavla Niklová, a former director of the city’s Czech Center. When we met, Niklová explained the relationship between the foundation and the library itself.
Tuesday marks the seventh anniversary of the death of Václav Havel. The former president remains a much respected figure in the country, even though his quotes are often used to help delineate the current divide in Czech society. Several commemorative events are taking place across the Czech Republic, including those that seek to bring Havel closer through his works.
The Czech Film Fund will spend CZK 64 million on supporting eight upcoming feature films. The largest amount, some CZK 14.5 million, will help fund an upcoming biographical film about Václav Havel. According to the fund’s director Helena Bezděk Fraňková, the films cover a wide range of genres including historical pictures, those covering present day issues and a film for children.
The State Fund for Cinematography has agreed to subsidize eight Czech films
to the tune of 64 million crowns. The highest single subsidy was granted to
a biographical film on the life of Václav Havel produced by Slávek
The film will cover Havel’s life from 1968 to 1989 when the dissident writer was elected president of Czechoslovakia. The project received a subsidy of 14.5 million crowns.
In December 1988 Francois Mitterrand had breakfast with leading dissidents in Prague, providing a major shot in the arm to the Czechoslovak opposition. The Czech Foreign Ministry is now reported to be planning similar events on the 30th anniversary of Mitterrand’s gesture to demonstrate the country’s support for human rights.
Taking advantage of relative liberalisation at home, the young Václav Havel visited New York in the spring of 1968 for the US premiere of his second major play, The Memorandum. It was staged by the Public Theater, which had just had a huge hit with Hair and was headed by director Joseph Papp. He and his wife Gail Papp got to know Havel at that time – and later visited the then dissident at his country home in communist Czechoslovakia.
Václav Havel has just received a major honour, with the unveiling of a bronze bust of the late dissident turned president at Columbia University in New York. Speaking at the ceremony, Havel’s friend Madeleine Albright said he would have been alarmed at some aspects of today’s world – but would not have succumbed to despair.
Rehearsal for Truth is a weeklong theatre festival dedicated to Václav Havel that gets underway in New York on Tuesday. Alongside plays and stage readings, it will also see the presentation of a human rights award and the unveiling of a new bust of the dissident turned president at Columbia University. I discussed the festival, which is focused on Central European theatre, with organiser Pavla Niklová of the Václav Havel Library Foundation.
The first reunion of the classic lineup of The Velvet Underground took place in Paris in 1990, at a show also featuring the Czech band Půlnoc. Believe it or not, the VU performed for the first time in 22 years in large part due to a Prague rumour linked to Půlnoc that took on a life of its own. A recording of that concert – which took place 28 years ago this week – has now been printed up on vinyl by Ivo Pospíšil, who was closely involved in the events in question.