Prague, Czech Republic – A new bilingual book, published in both Italian and English, looks at the legacy of Czech playwright, dissident, and statesman Vaclav Havel through a series of exclusive interviews with former collaborators and prominent figures of Czech public life.
“Vaclav Havel: A multi-voice portrait of the hero of the Velvet Revolution”, was released earlier this week during an official launch at the Italian Culture Centre in Prague, in presence of the book’s author, 24-year-old Amedeo Gasparini, and Italian ambassador to the Czech Republic Mauro Marsili.
Published with a limited distribution of 1,000 copies by Italian-English magazine Progetto Repubblica Ceca, the book comprises an introduction by Sergio Tazzer, CEE expert and founder of the RAI radio program “East West”, and 18 interviews of prominent Czech and foreign figures curated to explore the life, work, and legacy of Vaclav Havel ten years after his death.
The interviewees include Madeleine Albright, Czech-born former US Secretary of State; Alexandr Vondra, former ambassador to the US and Foreign Affairs Minister; Jacques Rupnik, French historian and ex-advisor to Havel; Karel Schwarzenberg, former Minister of Foreign Affairs; Dominik Duka, Cardinal of the Czech Republic; Jakub Hladik, Havel’s secretary and advisor; Zdenek Hrib, current mayor of Prague; Rob Cameron, Prague correspondent for the BBC; or Veritas Holikova, the nun and psychologist who was the last person to meet Havel.
“In anticipation of the tenth anniversary of Havel’s death, Progetto Repubblica Ceca’s editor-in-chief Giovanni Usai and I started contacting the people who could help us put together a multi-facetted and multi-voice portrait of the former Czech president,” author Amedeo Gasparini told Kafkadesk.
“The idea was to ask everyone about their relations with Havel,” he explained. “For example, with Cardinal Dominik Duka, Bishop Vaclav Maly and Sister Veritas Holikova, we talked about Havel and the Church; with Cyril Svoboda and Alexandr Vondra, but also with Karel Schwarzenberg and Madeleine Albright, about his relations abroad. And so on.”
Amedeo Gasparini, a Swiss-Italian freelance journalist who came to Prague to complete his studies at Charles University, said the goal of the publication was to “get to know him through the eyes of those who had dealt with and met him”.
“Havel was a complex personality and a great character: quite naturally, he could not be liked by everyone, both at home and abroad,” Gasparini commented. Despite being hailed by many as a freedom fighter and human rights icon for his role in toppling Czechoslovakia’s communist regime and in steering the country through the troubled post-1989 years, Havel’s life and political engagement were the source of many controversies, especially in his native Czech Republic.
“Let’s not forget that there are also several sectors of Czech society that do not appreciate him and see him as an ‘agent of the Americans’, someone who sold out the country to NATO and the EU, etc. But Havel’s message and philosophy are still relevant today, and there are people ready to fight for his ideals.”
A non-profit initiative, the book isn’t subject to a cover price, but to a voluntary donation to a selection of civic organizations in the spirit of Havel’s engagement and indicated in the book itself. It can be picked up on appointment at the office of Progetto Repubblica Ceca in the centre of Prague.