(from Radio Prague, 10/3/2021; Photo: Václav Havel|Photo: Filip Jandourek, Czech Radio.)

Born into a prominent wealthy family, Václav Havel came of age after the Communist coup of 1948, when to be “bourgeois” was to be part of a despised social class. As a young man, his criticism of the regime and status as a “dissident playwright” would soon land him in prison.

From those dark prison cells, Havel also gained prominence in international politics. He moved from a sort of private asylum at his country house in Hrádeček to the most important presidential and royal palaces in the world. The once-banned author saw his plays and essays published by the world’s most influential publishing house. Such was the life of Václav Havel. We will commemorate the 85th anniversary of his birth on 5 October 2021.

Few people have lived a more varied life than did Václav Havel. He was born into a privileged Prague family. What could have been good fortune soon turned to a burden. After the Communists came to power, inappropriate (i.e., “bourgeois”) origins became a major obstacle.

All his attempts to study the humanities at university were unsuccessful: without the recommendation of the local Communist Party branch, it was impossible. He was eventually accepted to the Czech Technical University, where he studied economics. It was also a small miracle at that time (1955). He was not admitted to the Academy of Performing Arts (AMU) until 1962; for distance learning, which was considered less valuable.

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