Czech playwright and former president Havel dies
by Viktor Palák
19/12/2011 - Vaclav Havel, a Czechoslovak and Czech president and a respected thinker and cultural figure died on Sunday December 18 in his sleep. He was 75.
He was a symbol of 1989's Velvet Revolution, which launched him into the presidential office. He became the 10th president of Czechoslovakia and after the country peacefully split, he became the first president of the Czech Republic, remaining in office until 2003.
Havel's story of dissident-turned-president has been an inspiration to both political leaders and the public all over the world. The Jeremy Irons-narrated documentary, Power of the Powerless, was named after one of Havel's influential essays.
Havel was closely associated with both Czech and foreign cultural scenes, with Lou Reed and members of the Rolling Stones being his friends. His uncle Milos founded the world-famous Barrandov Studios and Havel himself unsuccessfully applied to study at the Prague film academy FAMU. He has been an object of numerous documentaries; Citizen Havel [trailer], directed by the late filmmaker Pavel Koutecky and finished by Miroslav Janek premiered at the Berlinale in 2008.
Besides being a playwright, Havel became a director in 2011, when he filmed his own play Havel's Leaving, which competed at the Moscow Film Festival. The film deals with the struggles of a politician to leave office and, struggling with poor health himself, Havel was unable to attend the international screenings of his film, as well as the Karlovy Vary IFF screening attended by actor John Malkovich.
Tributes have poured in from all over world following the news of Havel's passing - among the first was a Tweet from Salman Rushdie: “And now Havel. Damn. I'm getting tired of finding friends and comrades in the obituary columns. Will everyone please stay alive for a while?” British Prime Minister David Cameron said: “For years, Communism tried to crush him, and to extinguish his voice. But Havel, the playwright and the dissident, could not be silenced.”
Havel's last public appearance was alongside the Dalai Lama just a few days before his death. He is survived by his second wife, actress Dagmar Veskrnova-Havlova.