Book: Havel: A Life, by Michael Zantovsky.

It's too soon for #quotesporn, I know. But I was just reading a review of a new biography of Vaclav Havel. I admire Vaclav Havel and his story is an amazing one. Havel was a successful playwright in the 1960s during the Prague Spring. The Soviet tanks moved in on Czechoslovakia in 1968. In 1976, an underground rock group called Plastic People of the Universe was arrested by the Soviet Union. Havel and others wrote a petition calling on the Communist government to honour human rights. He was imprisoned for this.

By 1989, Soviet control was collapsing and Vaclav Havel became President of Czechoslovakia surrounded by a "motley crew of long-haired advisers."

Here's the quote from the book:

    No one knew how to deal with the military. The head of the president’s military office had to be a general, but all of the generals had gone through Communist indoctrination. The candidates answered every question monosyllabically, until Zantovsky thought to ask them what they read at bedtime: “One apparently only read the statutes and the order of battle manuals, the second read all the Marxist classics in Russian, and the third, slightly more enlightened, enjoyed reading histories of battles and campaigns from Hannibal to von Clausewitz. The fourth, an antiaircraft missile brigade commander, hesitated for a long time, after which he stuttered: ‘Catch-22.’ It was no contest.”

The book review is online and is worth reading. If you can get into the New York Times, it's here

One Havel quote has stayed with me since I first heard it. About his imprisonment, Havel said: "If you become bitter in a bitter place, then the place has won."

Anyhow: give us a quote from your recent reading, even if you are only reading the book review.


“The things you learn in maturity aren’t simple things such as acquiring information and skills. You learn not to engage in self-destructive behavior. You learn not to burn up energy in anxiety. You discover how to manage your tensions. You learn that self-pity and resentment are among the most toxic of drugs. You find that the world loves talent but pays off on character.

“You come to understand that most people are neither for you nor against you; they are thinking about themselves. You learn that no matter how hard you try to please, some people in this world are not going to love you, a lesson that is at first troubling and then really quite relaxing.”

-John Gardner (Qtd. in NYT 1/6/15)

posted by lil: 1595 days ago