Václav Havel

Václav
Havel
1936
1992

Czech Playwright, Essayist, Poet, Dissident and Politician, Last President of Czechoslovakia

Author Quotes

My only school was life itself.

Self-confidence is not pride. Just the contrary: only a person or a nation that is self-confident, in the best sense of the word, is capable of listening to others, accepting them as equals, forgiving its enemies and regretting its own guilt.

The most dangerous walls are not political or military boundaries but the walls that mutually divide individual people and that divide our own souls. My presidential agenda would be to bring spirituality, moral responsibility and humility into politics and, in that respect, to make clear that there is something higher above us. [Paraphrase]

There can be no doubt that distrust of words is less harmful than unwarranted trust in them. Besides, to distrust words, and indict them for the horrors that might slumber unobtrusively within them --isn't this, after all, the true vocation of the intellectual?

True enough, the country is calm. Calm as a morgue or a grave, would you not say?

What I am trying to say is this: We must all learn many things from you, from how to educate our offspring, how to elect our representatives, all the way to how to organize our economic life so that it will lead to prosperity and not poverty. But it doesn’t have to be merely assistance from the well-educated, the powerful and the wealthy to someone who has nothing to offer in return. We too can offer something to you: our experience and the knowledge that has come from it.

Now we have a sort of economical drying of intellectuals,

Sober perseverance is more effective than enthusiastic emotions, which are all too capable of being transferred, with little difficulty, to something different each day.

The most important thing is that man should be the measure of all structures, including economic structures, and not that man be made to measure for those structures. The most important thing is not to lose sight of personal relationships —i.e., the relationships between man and his co-workers, between subordinates and their superiors, between man and his work, between this work and its consequences.

There is only one art, whose sole criterion is the power, the authenticity, the revelatory insight, the courage and suggestiveness with which it seeks its truth. Thus, from the standpoint of the work and its worth it is irrelevant to which political ideas the artist as a citizen claims allegiance, which ideas he would like to serve with his work or whether he holds any such ideas at all.

Truth and love will overcome lies and hatred.

What is needed in politics is not the ability to lie but rather the sensibility to know when, where, how, and to whom to say things.

Of course, in politics, just as anywhere else in life, it is impossible and it would not be sensible always to say everything bluntly. Yet that does not mean one has to lie. What is needed here are tact, instinct, and good taste.

Sometimes I wonder if suicides aren't in fact sad guardians of the meaning of life.

The only lost cause is one we give up on before we enter the struggle.

There is only one thing I will not concede: that it might be meaningless to strive in a good cause.

Truth is not merely what we are thinking, but also why, to whom and under what circumstances we say it.

What makes the Anthropic Principle and the Gaia Hypothesis so inspiring? One simple thing: Both remind us, in modern language, of what we have long suspected, of what we have long projected into our forgotten myths and perhaps what has always lain dormant within us as archetypes. That is, the awareness of our being anchored in the earth and the universe, the awareness that we are not here alone nor for ourselves alone, but that we are an integral part of higher, mysterious entities against whom it is not advisable to blaspheme. This forgotten awareness is encoded in all religions. All cultures anticipate it in various forms. It is one of the things that form the basis of man's understanding of himself, of his place in the world, and ultimately of the world as such.

One has to greatly admire the patience with which our society has come to terms with all the challenges of these dramatic times, the extent of which few of us could have anticipated in those heady, revolutionary days.

That is very dangerous... in an absolutely legal way and in accordance with the wording of the law, but against the spirit of the ... constitution.

The only salvation of the world today... is the rapid dissemination of the basic values of the West, that is, the ideas of democracy, human rights, the civil society, and the free market.

There used to be a time when this country's president could have delivered the same New Year's Address he had given a year before, and nobody would have noticed. Fortunately, that time has passed.

Twenty or thirty years ago, in the army, we had a lot of obscure adventures, and years later we tell them at parties, and suddenly we realize that those two very difficult years of our lives have become lumped together into a few episodes that have lodged in our memory in a standardized form, and are always told in a standardized way, in the same words. But in fact that lump of memories has nothing whatsoever to do with our experience of those two years in the army and what it has made of us.

When a man has his heart in the right place and good taste, he can not only do well in politics but is even predetermined for it. If someone is modest and does not yearn for power, he is certainly not ill-equipped to engage in politics; on the contrary, he belongs there. What is needed in politics is not the ability to lie but rather the sensibility to know when, where, how and to whom to say things.

Our civilization has essentially globalized only the surfaces of our lives. But our inner self continues to have a life of its own. And the fewer answers the era of rational knowledge provides to the basic questions of human Being, the more deeply it would seem that people, behind its back as it were, cling to the ancient certainties of their tribe. Because of this, individual cultures, increasingly lumped together by contemporary civilization, are realizing with new urgency their own inner autonomy and the inner differences of others.

Author Picture
First Name
Václav
Last Name
Havel
Birth Date
1936
Death Date
1992
Bio

Czech Playwright, Essayist, Poet, Dissident and Politician, Last President of Czechoslovakia