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The Art of the Impossible: Politics as Morality in Practice

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Czech President Vaclav Havel gives new meaning to the word "politics" in this paperback collection. "Like his American predecessor Thomas Jefferson, Vaclav Havel is a politician with the soul of a writer and a writer with the savvy of a politician. . . . Havel's speeches have the power to sustain hope and inspire action even when the prospects of success seem dim. . . ".-- Czech President Vaclav Havel gives new meaning to the word "politics" in this paperback collection. "Like his American predecessor Thomas Jefferson, Vaclav Havel is a politician with the soul of a writer and a writer with the savvy of a politician. . . . Havel's speeches have the power to sustain hope and inspire action even when the prospects of success seem dim. . . ".--George Stephanopoulus, LOS ANGELES TIMES BOOK REVIEW.


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Czech President Vaclav Havel gives new meaning to the word "politics" in this paperback collection. "Like his American predecessor Thomas Jefferson, Vaclav Havel is a politician with the soul of a writer and a writer with the savvy of a politician. . . . Havel's speeches have the power to sustain hope and inspire action even when the prospects of success seem dim. . . ".-- Czech President Vaclav Havel gives new meaning to the word "politics" in this paperback collection. "Like his American predecessor Thomas Jefferson, Vaclav Havel is a politician with the soul of a writer and a writer with the savvy of a politician. . . . Havel's speeches have the power to sustain hope and inspire action even when the prospects of success seem dim. . . ".--George Stephanopoulus, LOS ANGELES TIMES BOOK REVIEW.

30 review for The Art of the Impossible: Politics as Morality in Practice

  1. 4 out of 5

    Bart

    If you can rate the quality of a writer by how interesting are the strangers who approach you when they see you reading it, Havel is surpassed solely by Jorge Luis Borges. A couple highlights: The man who hates does not smile, he merely smirks; he is incapable of making a joke, only of bitter ridicule; he can't be genuinely ironic because he can't be ironic about himself. Only those who can laugh at themselves can laugh authentically. A serious face, quickness to take offense, strong language, sho If you can rate the quality of a writer by how interesting are the strangers who approach you when they see you reading it, Havel is surpassed solely by Jorge Luis Borges. A couple highlights: The man who hates does not smile, he merely smirks; he is incapable of making a joke, only of bitter ridicule; he can't be genuinely ironic because he can't be ironic about himself. Only those who can laugh at themselves can laugh authentically. A serious face, quickness to take offense, strong language, shouting, the inability to step outside himself and his own foolishness - these are typical of one who hates. (p. 57) and Communism was not defeated by military force, but by life, by the human spirit, by conscience, by the resistance of Being and man to manipulation. It was defeated by a revolt of color, authenticity, history in all its variety, and human individuality against imprisonment within a uniform ideology. (p. 90) This book comprises incredibly and unexpectedly vulnerable stuff from a world leader.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Rachel Y

    I want to read everything by this man. I'm sticking with a 4.5 for some of the redundancies, but he is such a courageous and cogent writer and thinker. I'm extremely impressed - even literally - with his message that the only hope for our global civilization is in finding a renewed morality and resisting tribalism. His specific political -historical experience made his thoughts on democracy and totalitarianism particularly credible reminders worth heeding. So many bits were disturbing in their p I want to read everything by this man. I'm sticking with a 4.5 for some of the redundancies, but he is such a courageous and cogent writer and thinker. I'm extremely impressed - even literally - with his message that the only hope for our global civilization is in finding a renewed morality and resisting tribalism. His specific political -historical experience made his thoughts on democracy and totalitarianism particularly credible reminders worth heeding. So many bits were disturbing in their prescience ("The Anatomy of Hate", "United Nations Summit for Children") and I constantly wondered how he'd feel knowing Trump is the president of America and that countries the world over are reverting to their nationalist, xenophobic, or totalitarian tendencies. He wrote and delivered these speeches from 1990-1996, but the main crises he identifies are exactly the same. One of the most interesting aspects of his philosophy in my opinion was the metaphysical aspect. Since I'm becoming more familiar with certain branches of Buddhism, I found his references to Being really intriguing. I wonder what he believed and if he wrote religiously. I don't remember when I first became aware of Havel and enchanted by even the idea of him, a playwright / revolutionary turned world leader, but now after finally reading the man himself, the enchantment has grown only stronger.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Caroline-not-getting-updates

    Many thoughtful speeches written from 1989 through 1996 by a dramatist and leader of the Czechoslovak resistance to Communist rule who found himself president after the velvet revolution. These speeches were given all over the world as Havel was asked to speak about the beliefs that drove him to resist. While the speeches grow repetitive, collectively they articulate his belief in personal responsibility, development of a multicultural society, struggle to adopt democracy to a variety of culture Many thoughtful speeches written from 1989 through 1996 by a dramatist and leader of the Czechoslovak resistance to Communist rule who found himself president after the velvet revolution. These speeches were given all over the world as Havel was asked to speak about the beliefs that drove him to resist. While the speeches grow repetitive, collectively they articulate his belief in personal responsibility, development of a multicultural society, struggle to adopt democracy to a variety of cultures, respect and transcendence as a guiding force. My favorite quote: 'The gift of forgiveness, and thus freedom from one's own anger, can flourish only on the terrain of justice."

  4. 4 out of 5

    Bryan Kibbe

    Vaclav Havel is an inspiring thinker and politician. This book offers readers a collection of his speeches from the mid-1990s, wherein he frequently addresses the need to re-introduce a moral or spiritual dimension to politics and re-discover a greater sense of responsibility for human kind as a whole, now and in the future. As someone that has become discouraged by the vacuous thinking and shallow ostentatiousness of modern politics in America, Havel's thinking proved to be invigorating and ref Vaclav Havel is an inspiring thinker and politician. This book offers readers a collection of his speeches from the mid-1990s, wherein he frequently addresses the need to re-introduce a moral or spiritual dimension to politics and re-discover a greater sense of responsibility for human kind as a whole, now and in the future. As someone that has become discouraged by the vacuous thinking and shallow ostentatiousness of modern politics in America, Havel's thinking proved to be invigorating and refreshing. Perhaps politics is not a lost enterprise, but rather is desperately in need of careful thinkers that are attuned to the context of life and its deeply interconnected nature.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Geraldine

    Madeleine Albright told me to read this. Okay, well, she recommended it in an interview in the NYT that I happend to read, samesies?

  6. 5 out of 5

    Brian

    Great book about the way a non-traditional leader thinks. A great man in extraordinary circumstances.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Yifei Men

    For someone like me who has almost no interest in history or politics, I am surprised that I stuck through the entire book. Yes, there are large swathes of lectures about democracy and the toils of history that I glossed over, but there are also many many gems of pure beauty in Havel's writing. If anything, Havel strikes me as a deeply introspective, thoughtful and sensitive leader, one who has a charming character and an endearing voice -- a credible storyteller whom you're willing to listen to For someone like me who has almost no interest in history or politics, I am surprised that I stuck through the entire book. Yes, there are large swathes of lectures about democracy and the toils of history that I glossed over, but there are also many many gems of pure beauty in Havel's writing. If anything, Havel strikes me as a deeply introspective, thoughtful and sensitive leader, one who has a charming character and an endearing voice -- a credible storyteller whom you're willing to listen to, even when the historical context is completely lost (to me). The most memorable passages in the book for me are Havel's examination of human nature, for example in his speech at the Oslo Conference on "The Anatomy of Hate" We are, rather, uneasy observers of this phenomenon (hate), and thus we try to reflect on it only from the outside... So I, too, relate to hatred only as an observer, whose understanding of it is not profound, but whose concern about it is" or in his address to the Salzburg Festival: For us, fear of history is not just fear of the future but also fear of the past.... All too often... fear of one lie gives birth to another lie, in the foolish hope that by protecting ourselves from the first lie we will be protected from lies in general. But a lie can never protect us from a lie.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Chris Brimmer

    This could have been shelved eight ways to Sunday. Havel's eloquence puts Obama to shame, the humble presentation of soaring rhetoric, deep thinking and grand ideas. In a world of politicians this man was a statesman. This could have been shelved eight ways to Sunday. Havel's eloquence puts Obama to shame, the humble presentation of soaring rhetoric, deep thinking and grand ideas. In a world of politicians this man was a statesman.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Greg

    Frankly, it gets a little tedious at times, but the insights are worth it, as are the relevance and resonance of these speeches with current issues.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Nathaniel

    This is a collection of speeches given by playwright Vaclav Havel during his first several years as President of Czechoslovakia and later as President of the Czech Republic, covering 1989 through mid-1996. Havel was a major intellectual leader of the resistance to communism during the 1970's and 1980's, but he was genuinely surprised to be given the office of president by his peers after the communist government collapsed. Nevertheless, he rose to the occasion, and served four years as President This is a collection of speeches given by playwright Vaclav Havel during his first several years as President of Czechoslovakia and later as President of the Czech Republic, covering 1989 through mid-1996. Havel was a major intellectual leader of the resistance to communism during the 1970's and 1980's, but he was genuinely surprised to be given the office of president by his peers after the communist government collapsed. Nevertheless, he rose to the occasion, and served four years as President of Czechoslovakia, then another ten as President of the Czech Republic after Czechoslovakia ceased to exist in 1993. Havel's presidency was one of the only occasions in human history in which a head of state has been a prominent intellectual, and because I absolutely love his plays I was wanting to read his writings as President for a long time. To say that I was disappointed would be inaccurate, but nevertheless this is a very difficult volume to read all at once. It's more a collection of political philosophy than anything, as well as a series of observations about the problems that Eastern Bloc countries had in transitioning to democracy. Because it's a collection of separate speeches in translation, the content is very repetitive and often very similar from year to year. Havel's trademark humanism is on display throughout and there are plenty of quotable quotes and good observations, but these are generally buried within the same speech given eight different ways on eight different days. There are also several anachronisms to a modern reader, particularly Havel's passive-aggressive distaste for the now-thoroughly obsolete and discredited Samuel Huntington essay "The Clash of Civilizations", which was very popular with international policymakers at the time and is still taught in polisci courses today. I personally can't stand even the premise of Huntington's work, which desperately grasped at straws to find a new "evil empire" for Americans to hate after the fall of communism, and neither could Havel, but 20 years later the world has moved on (Dick Cheney excepted) and it's just not something I want to think about. In short, this volume does a good job of shedding some light on how people who were "behind the iron curtain" saw the redevelopment of Europe after the Cold War, and many of his observations still hold true today - especially the idea that we now live in one world community in which nationalism has diminished meaning - an especially interesting observation originally given years before the EU came into being. It won't be of interest to many or an easy read for most, but it's still worth looking at if you want a humanistic bent on political philosophy by an actual practitioner of both and/or are curious about what people were thinking in Europe during the post-communist realignment.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Carol

    the perfect book to be reading during these times of change in the Mid-East -- While I think (understandably) Havel is blind to the negatives of free-market capitalism (he doesn't acknowledge the possibility that capitalism has helped bring about the immoral, selfish, materialistic attitudes and loss of the spiritual that he decries) but his perceptions are always thought-provoking and ultimately hopeful. If only there were more "intellectuals" on our political stage. the perfect book to be reading during these times of change in the Mid-East -- While I think (understandably) Havel is blind to the negatives of free-market capitalism (he doesn't acknowledge the possibility that capitalism has helped bring about the immoral, selfish, materialistic attitudes and loss of the spiritual that he decries) but his perceptions are always thought-provoking and ultimately hopeful. If only there were more "intellectuals" on our political stage.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Jason

    This is a collection of speeches, which, without context are merely average.

  13. 4 out of 5

    David Simonetti

    This is well worth reading and inspiring. I have great respect for havel's message and his eloquence. This is powerful and forceful defense of freedom. This is well worth reading and inspiring. I have great respect for havel's message and his eloquence. This is powerful and forceful defense of freedom.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Manfred Krueger

  15. 4 out of 5

    Cody Ruebel

  16. 4 out of 5

    Freddy Guevara

  17. 5 out of 5

    Stephen Ziegler

  18. 4 out of 5

    Jon Trainer

  19. 5 out of 5

    Kristofer Carlson

  20. 4 out of 5

    Emilia

  21. 4 out of 5

    William

  22. 5 out of 5

    Phillip Michael Garner

  23. 4 out of 5

    Keith

  24. 5 out of 5

    Interecophil

  25. 5 out of 5

    Ed

  26. 5 out of 5

    Michael

  27. 5 out of 5

    Chris

  28. 5 out of 5

    Ellen F. Ayoub

  29. 4 out of 5

    E.W.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Jay Murdoch

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