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January 13 , 2009

An Uncanny Era

Conversations between Václav Havel and Adam Michnik


Czech playwright and dissident Vaclav Havel first encountered Polish historian and dissident Adam Michnik in 1978 at a clandestine meeting on a mountaintop along the Polish-Czechoslovak border. This initial meeting of two extraordinary thinkers who “plotted” democracy, and designed an effective peaceful strategy for dismantling authoritarian regimes in Central and Eastern Europe, resulted in a lifelong friendship and an extraordinary set of bold conversations conducted over the next two postrevolutionary decades.
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Havel, president of Czechoslovakia and later the Czech Republic, and Michnik, editor-in-chief of the largest daily newspaper in the region, provide rare insights into the post-1989 challenges to building new democratic institutions and new habits in the context of an increasingly unsettling political culture. With both dismay and humor, their fascinating exchanges wrestle with the essential question of postrevolutionary life: How does one preserve the revolution’s ideals in the real world? At once historically immediate and politically universal, the Havel-Michnik conversations have never before been collected in a single volume in any language.

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