15. 12. 2016

On 15–16 December 2016, an International Interdisciplinary Conference organized on the occasion of the unlived 80th birthday of Václav Havel entitled Václav Havel – playwright, dissident, politician was held in the building of the Academy of Sciences of the CR. The conference was organized by the Institute for Czech Literature of the CAS and the Institute of Contemporary History of the CAS.

The conference was divided into thematic units devoted to drama, politics and dissent. The first day in the panel On drama and theatre Markéta Goetz – Stankiewicz focused in her lecture entitled Who is Václav Havel? on the personality and life of this important Czech playwright, writer and politician. The other lectures in the block dealt with partial themes and comparisons of the production of Václav Havel. Jiří Holý contributed to the discussion with the topic Familiarity and the ideologization of the language in the Garden Party, Kieran Williams with a paper entitled Necropolitics and normalization: The influence of E. Fromm and J. Šafařík on the work of V. Havel at the beginning of the 1970s and David S. Danaher dealt with the Appellativeness of Power of the Powerless and the relation between Havel’s plays from the 1970s and Power of the Powerless.

The afternoon panel, which focused more on the period of the dissent, was introduced by Miloš Havelka, who placed the production and life of Václav Havel in the context of the artistic, philosophical and political situation in the 'golden' 1960s. The exile activity and establsiment of foreign contacts by Vaclav Havel from 1968 was dealt with in his contribution by Vilém Prečan. Tomáš Hermann disassembled two lines of thoughts in Havel. He described the activist and comtemplative position and its connection in the personality of Václav Havel. The counterculture in relation with defence of the person in the modern and psot modern world was covered in a lecture by Kristina Andělová, who understood it as an intellectual resource for Havel’s criticism of technical civilization.

The second day was also begun by a block of lectures on drama and theatre. Barbara Day dealt with the reception of Havel’s early dramas with the British critics. She for instance remembered the criticism of Henry Popkin, who appreciated the dramaturgy of the Theatre on the Balustrade in Prague where Havel worked. “To be the author of absurd plays in Prague requires a lot of courage,” wrote Popkin. Klára Hůrková compared the early plays by Václav Havel and Tom Stoppard. Her paper was entitled Mirror Images – Zrcadlové obrazy and was to capture the similarity and also the inversional differentiation of the life fates and productions of the two playwrights. Klára Hůrková summarized the paper with the fact that both Václav Havel and Tom Stoppard at the beginning wanted to be apolitical, but as Václav Havel said, “when a person lives in truth, it is perceived under certain circumstances as a political act”. The conference organizer Lenka Jungmannová focused in the final phase of the third block on the contribution of Václav Havel for modern Czech drama.

In the afternoon panel On politics, lectures were given by Tomáš Vilímek “Release Havel!” Solidarity with Václav Havel in 1989, Lubomír Kopeček entitled Václav Havel and his presidential entries to the situation: The role of the head of the Czech state in the birth of governments in a comparative perspective, Adéla Gjuričová Marriage from reason with the subtitle President Havel and the Czechoslovak and Czech parliaments and the conference was concluded by the paper of Aleksandr Kaczorowski focused on The Presidency of Václav Havel as the continuity of dissident values.