Sunday, December 18, 2011

RIP, Vaclav Havel

. Sunday, December 18, 2011

He was one of my favorite figures of the 20th century. His advice to dissidents living under oppression was to live as if you were free. His essay "The Power of the Powerless" is a landmark achievement in 20th century normative political thought. Here is one good brief remembrance.

It is perhaps fitting that he died in such proximity to Christopher Hitchens, who was one of Havel's biggest fans. The two were acquainted I believe, and both belonged to what now appears to be the only revolutionary opposition movement to have truly emerged from 20th century geopolitics: an opposition to socialist totalitarianism. To that end they were on the same side in the Balkans and in Iraq. Hitchens appreciated Havel for his literary ability -- and not just Havel; Hitchens once wrote that he most admired Obama for his book about his father -- and his understanding of how language is itself political.

It is a shame that Hitchens was not able to write an appreciation of Havel. (Just as it is a shame that he will not be able to write the obituaries of folks like Kissinger and Ratzinger.) But there are plenty of others. Havel's life was well-lived.


Update: Drezner has a good post on Havel and Hitchens.


RIP, Vaclav Havel
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