Václav Havel has died at the age of 75. He was the dissident Czekoslavakian playwright who used the power of theatre (on and off the stage) of the absurd – that is the absurdities of life and politics – to bring down communism during the 1989 Velvet Revolution. Havel was Czechoslavakia’s first democratically elected president who led his country through a peaceful breakup from Slovakia, in 1993.
The Power and the Powerless (1978) one of Havel’s better known essays that was turned into a documentary best reveals the late author’s intellectual life as it examines the struggle for freedom during the communist era in Czechoslovakia, from the 1950′s through 1989. The film is directed by the Emmy Award Winning director of A Quiet Revolution, Cory Taylor, and narrated by Oscar winning British actor, Jeremy Iron.
A specter is haunting eastern Europe: the specter of what in the West is called dissent. This specter has not appeared out of thin air. It is a natural and inevitable consequence of the present historical phase of the system it is haunting. It was born at a time when this system, for a thousand reasons, can no longer base itself on the unadulterated, brutal, and arbitrary application of power, eliminating all expressions of nonconformity. What is more, the system has become so ossified politically that there is practically no way for such nonconformity to be implemented within its official structures. The Power and the Powerless (opening paragraph)