An Uncanny Era Conversations between Václav Havel and Adam Michnik Elzbieta Matynia

Publication date:
27 May 2014
Yale University Press
264 pages: 210 x 140 x 24mm
1 b-w illus.
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The first publication in book form of the historic postrevolution conversations between activist playwright and Czech president Vaclav Havel and Polish journalist 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.

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.

Adam Michnik is editor-in-chief of the Warsaw daily newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza. Writer and dramatist Václav Havel (1936–2011) was the last president of Czechoslovakia and the first president of the Czech Republic. Elzbieta Matynia is professor of sociology at the New School for Social Research in New York City and at the University of Lower Silesia in Wroclaw, Poland.

An Uncanny Era is an excellent read, and will have exceptional intellectual and political import.”—Iván Zoltán Dénes, Founding President, István Bibó Center for Advanced Studies of the Humanities and Social Sciences, Budapest

"These reflective interlocutors--at once introspective and outward-looking--urgently implore us to navigate hazardous roads that join ethics to politics.  Spanning three fateful decades, this riveting book of their conversations offers a great gift, not simply for historians and analysts of East Europe and post-Communism, but for anyone concerned with modern history, the character of democracy, and the role of ideas in public life."--Ira Katznelson, author of Liberalism's Crooked Circle: Letters to Adam Michnik