Exploring the life and work of the Czech playwright, politician and philosopher:

‘I approach philosophy somewhat the way we approach art,’ Havel once confessed. Despite his lack of method, he took a reading of Heidegger and a handful of homegrown metaphors and set forth in his writing powerful ideas about politics, truth and human nature. Havel believed that under communism and capitalism, people are threatened by what he described in his 1984 essay ‘Politics and Conscience’ as ‘the irrational momentum of anonymous, impersonal, and inhuman power—the power of ideologies, systems, apparat, bureaucracy, artificial languages, and political slogans.’ He coined a word for this power, samopohyb, which his graceful and sensitive longtime translator, Paul Wilson, believes is derived from samopohybný (‘self-propelled’). Wilson has rendered the word variously as ‘self-momentum’ and ‘automatism.’

“Havel’s Specter: On Václav Havel.” — Caleb Crain, The Nation

See also: “The Mystery of the Millionaire Metaphysician.” — James Ryerson, Lingua Franca, July 1, 2001

Photo: Prague-Life