Monday, December 19, 2011

30 years ago this week

Dear Olga,

To return to the prison courtyard: what is actually happening when it begins to turn green in the spring again in bud and flower and perfume, when things come to life again? What in fact is that change, that its consequences can be so far-reaching? One important thing happens, I think: all at once, what yesterday still seemed no more than an agglomeration of dead, isolated, accidental and purposeless entities now begins to appear as nature - nature with its own great and mysterious order, its own direction, its countless births and deaths, its own life. We see that something exists that links, with countless hidden but common laws and tendencies, the grass, the flower beds, the trees and everything they represent and remind us of; something that gives them worth, that underlies both the infinite (antientropic) diversity of their existence as discrete entities and the unfailing concord of their natural coexistence; something that breathes into them their beauty and that through them, displays and celebrates itself and inspires celebration ..

I have survived the prison Christmas, my melancholy is gone and my paunch has grown.

I kiss you,

Václav Havel
Letters to Olga
  Letter 108
  Hermanice Prison
  Czechoslovak Socialist Republic
  December 26, 1981
Paul Wilson, Translation
Knopf, 1988©


  1. A rather wonderful yet poignant view.

  2. It's my experience with you, Dink, that you show up here on either of two occasions: when you damn well feel like it, or when it counts. I respect that in a man.

  3. And under such circumstances; this always impresses. These letters, published after his release but before his liberty was secure, were a very beautiful torch at the time (as I'm sure you remember) and, it seems, still would be. At least in Havel, with his priceless international prestige and media contacts (the basis of his original sentencing, indeed) we are able to hear from the many other enduring hearts who, I happen to believe, clamoured for the same thing - as if he were an epistolary version of Beethoven's "Prisoner's Chorus" in Fidelio. But not to be dismissive of his individual greatness (his weaknesses playing a noble part), this was a man whose heart cannot expire. I thank you for eliciting this confidance of one's view.