cover image Disturbing the Peace

Disturbing the Peace

Vaclav Havel. Alfred A. Knopf, $19.95 (228pp) ISBN 978-0-394-58441-6

Havel displayed resilience and courage in his unlikely journey from absurdist playwright to activist to president of Czechoslovakia. Branded a public enemy, his plays banned, he survived multiple arrests, four years in prison, a half-demented warden's endless punishments, and surveillance. His transformation from a writer, ``witness of his time,'' to a politician bent on rebuilding Czech democracy is modestly yet passionately recounted in an exhilarating set of interviews conducted by exiled Czech journalist Karel Hvizdala in 1985-1986. Havel sees East and West as undergoing a common crisis: the clash between an impersonal, irresponsible juggernaut of power, and the basic rights and interests of the individual. Far from embracing Western-style corporate capitalism, he favors diverse types of ownership and decentralized enterprises. Mingling autobiography with discussions of politics, literature and theater, his ruminations add up to a disarming and involving self-portrait. (June)