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Pathos i humour

- This book is an overdue debt to Vaclav Havel, who was known and respected in Poland after 1989 as a prominent opposition leader and politician, but his essays were not really in a broader social consciousness - Andrzej S. Jagodzinski said during the debate about the book Power of the Powerless and Other Essays. 


On June 18th in the premises of "Gazeta Wyborcza" there was a photographic exhibition "Vaclav Havel Občan" ("Citizen Vaclav Havel") and a debate about the book Power of the Powerless and Other Essays, which was released last year, thanks to the efforts of the Agora, the Professor Bronislaw Geremek Centre Foundation and the Czech Centre. The meeting and discussion was attended by:


Bp. Václav Malý – former spokesman for Charter 77, human rights activist, co-founder of the Civic Forum (Občanské forum). He played a key role in the Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia in 1989. He is the auxiliary bishop of Prague.

Jan Lityński – Polish politician, an opposition activist in Communist times, many times Member of the Polish Parliament, currently advisor to the President for contacts with political parties and political environments..

Andrzej S. Jagodziński – translator, journalist, editor, correspondent of "Gazeta Wyborcza" in Prague and Bratislava, now director of the Polish Institute in Bratislava.

            The discussion was chaired by Fr. Tomasz Dostatni - a Dominican, pastor of intelligence.        

Participants talked about their long-term relations with Václav Havel, who - as mentioned Bishop Vaclav Maly – told things about himself that others would not have been able to say. He was able to devote a lot to build the citizen awareness. As a man curious about the world, he was blessed with a great sense of humor, but also pragmatic and responsible over time became a "disciplined gypsy-artist" who had his secrets. He was also a man seeking in the faith, he often spoke and wrote about transcendence, the absolute horizon, but in a sense he was afraid of the judgments about the personal God. Paradoxically, the commitment to the idea of ​​ "personal" God he would treat as a loss of particles of his own freedom. Intellectual who liked the order and the artist, in which lay a need for fun, wanted - from time to time – to present himself as an ordinary citizen.

Jan Litynski stressed how important for the activities of the Polish democratic opposition the social and political situation in Czechoslovakia was. Václav Havel's essays were a real school of responsible, careful, yet pragmatic thinking. Power of the Powerless - one of the most important drafts of this intellectual tradition - proved to be an extremely accurate attempt to describe principles of operation of the totalitarian system, which was maintained thanks to a sphere of small, seemingly insignificant lies. Freedom, therefore, began when the civic dissent from the hypocrisy found an outlet in the area of social action. Political writing of Vaclav Havel - although related to a specific historical moment - is true today, as it indicates the integrity and importance of human consciousness. The remarkable ability to connect pathos with humor could be the model for contemporary journalism. It was recalled that some of Polish opposition activists (such as Zbigniew Bujak) recognizes The Strength of The Powerless as the text that shaped their political and civic life.

Andrzej S. Jagodzinski - translator and founder of the Polish edition of essays by Václav Havel - drew attention to his theatrical passions: The theater for him felt like home. If it was not for politics, Vašek would have remained a man of art and theater. He was a master of exposing the absurd of communist speech. His art made audience aware of the fact that distance and humor are merciless weapons against totalitarian reality.

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The debate about the book The Power of The Powerless, and Other Essays was accompanied by a photographic exhibition, presenting public activities of Vaclav Havel. It was prepared thanks to the efforts of Mirosław Lewandowski – an entrepreneur who lived in Prague for many years and who is also a lover and collector of contemporary art and initiator of many Polish-Czech artistic ventures.      

Jacek Głażewski