Ποιειν Και Πραττειν - create and do

Havel - a tragic figure?


Reflections about Havel, the tragic hero of the velvet revolution

The death of Havel illuminates once more what important role language played in making possible the transitions in Eastern European countries from Communism to new forms of democracy. Havel is praised especially for use of language. He was also a direct critic of the big divide between the Haves and Have Nots. He included in his criticism the post 1989 developments, including what formed itself under the Presidency of Klaus.

Still, Havel is also a tragic figure as explained best by Slavoj Zizek:

Does this mean a need to revisit the role literature played in Eastern Europe? Certainly in Hungary, there was Tibor Dery talking about the people being the real 'giants' of which no one should be afraid of. There is the writer looking out of the window in Budapest and knowing with the river still flowing below, that there are ahead bridges to be crossed. When Konrad became President of the Academy of Arts in Berlin, he did a lot to promote the Hungarian spirit in literature. 

The role may have been to keep up a subversive spirit or else to treat life in a light hearted manner as suggested by Kundera's novel "about the lightness of being". Yet doubts are cast about many of these prominent figures just as Paul Celan is supposed to have kept silent about the roles he played in the past. That concerns even more directly Christa Wolf who stayed to be a party member until 1989 and who worked for a brief while for the Stasi. The voice of dissident is, therefore, obscured by who received support from the West, and if so, in what way? 

At the same time, a turning point in Havel's own political orientation came when he reversed the laissez-faire to a criticism of the political economy, insofar as he became critical of those selling Czech companies to foreign investors. It became a slogan of even those linked to him through the writers' club to safeguard the Czech ownership of the weapon factories. If profits are continuing to be made, then it should stay at least in the land. Was this a new kind of Nationalism, and a breach of ethics with regards to the weapons industry? A definite answer was given by Havel who signed a letter written together with other Eastern European leaders in support of Bush's decision to invade Iraq on March 20th, 2003. By coincidence, Havel died on the day the last troops were coming home from Iraq.

HF 18.12.2011


Truth and Love in Politics

Another way to observe the legacy of Havel is what thethe Central European Forum plans to discuss between 15th and 18th November 2012, namely a forum about 'Truth and Love'. It will again take place in the Astorka/Korzo 90 theater on Namestie SNP 489/33 in Bratislava, Slovakia. Confirmed speakers include Zygmunt Bauman, Pascal Bruckner, Ilija Trojanow, Jirina Siklova, Leonidas Donskis, Oksana Zabuzhko, Radka Denemarkova, Andrzej Stasiuk, Adam Michnik, Miklos Haraszti, Ivan M. Havel, and others.


15 – 18 November 2012, BRATISLAVA

From 15 to 18th November 2012 the Slovak non-profit organisation Projekt Fórum, in conjunction with a number of other Slovak and international institutions, is organizing the fourth Central European Forum, a three-day series of discussions in Bratislava open to the public and featuring an international cast of panellists.

Central for this forum is Václav Havel’s conviction that truth and love will prevail over lies and hatred. Love for lies has been analysed by Martin Jay as mendacity, and he did so on hand of the philosophers Strauss, Hannah Arendt and Adorno.

For the organizers of this forum it is a matter of that importance "that we must remain faithful to our own values as well as believe in love that upholds the truth of others." They are taken to be the "two key principles without which a pluralist world cannot, in the long run, exist."

Starting from an analysis of the current crisis in Europe and in the world, it is stated that:

"Lies become untenable at a time of crisis, as evidenced by the current debt and economic crisis and the crisis in European coherence it has engendered. This is a time when instances of fraud are being uncovered and lies exposed. It is also a time of hatred unleashed by the lies that have been exposed. It seems that the fiercest opponents of lies are further lies, generating more hatred. We will be discussing possible ways of breaking this vicious circle."

Programme - to be analysed further as more information becomes available or can be obtained

THURSDAY 15 November
17:00 Opening
Vladimír Èerný, director of the Astorka/Korzo 90 theatre
Jáchym Topol, programme director of the Václav Havel Library
17:30 Panel I: On Lies
It is a commonplace that behind the official public institutions of our societies there are other institutions – private, confidential and often top secret: mafias, brotherhoods, mutual back-scratching alliances. Why do they thrive in our part of the world? How do they operate? In what ways do they overlap with official institutions? How do they weaken democracy?
Oksana Zabuzhko (Ukraine), Ivan Gabal (Czech Republic), Ilija Trojanow (Germany), Giacomo di Girolamo (Italy)
Chair: Martin M. Šimeèka (Slovakia)


FRIDAY 16 November
17:00 Panel II: On Hatred
How is it possible for people living in a civilized country to succumb to sudden bouts of hatred? Is a predisposition to intolerance something shared by countries in this part of Europe? What, if anything, can we learn from the Western experience of multiculturalism and integration of immi-grants?
Vladimir Arsenjeviæ (Serbia), Andrzej Stasiuk (Poland), Jens-Martin Eriksen (Denmark)
Chair: Chris Keulemans (Netherlands)

18:15 Panel III: On Stupidity
On the one hand, ideologies in the 21st century have managed to turn entire nations into mindless cattle, while on the other people now enjoy unprecedented access to information. The digital era is changing the way we think in profound ways. Where will this change lead us?
David Auerbach (USA), Drago Janèar (Slovenia), Ivan M. Havel (Czech Republic), Miklós Haraszti (Hungary)
Chair: Thierry Chervel (Germany)


SATURDAY 17 November
14:30 – 17:30 Panel IV: On Change
What was behind the mass civic protests and demonstrations of the past two years in the East and the West? What were their goals and what have they achieved?
Zygmunt Bauman (United Kingdom/Poland), Leonidas Donskis (Lithuania), Aitor Tinoco i Girona (Spain), Peter Pomerantsev (United Kingdom/Russia), Juraj Buzalka (Slovakia)
Chair: Eszter Babarczy (Hungary)

20:30 Panel V: On Experts
We made the mistake of placing our trust in economists and ceding to them some of our intellectual and political responsibility, Václav Havel said in Bratislava in 2009, in reference to the legacy of the Velvet Revolution. What does it mean to “cede the world to economic experts”? Was there any alternative and do we have an alternative today?
Adam Michnik (Poland), Alexander van der Bellen (Austria), Pascal Bruckner (France), Lajos Bokros (Hungary)
Chair: Ulrike Ackermann (Germany)

SUNDAY 18 November
14:30 Panel VI: On Fear
Leftist and rightist ideologies in their classic forms no longer work even in Central Europe, where they traditionally wielded immense power. Instead, their new hybrids and aggressive mutations are beginning to hold sway. What words does power use to speak to us?
György Konrád (Hungary), Radka Denemarková (Czech Republic), Armin Thurnherr (Austria – to be confirmed)
Chair: Jana Cviková (Slovakia)

16:00 h. Panel VII: On Love
Why do the old feel disrespected by society? What wisdom does old age bring? And how can we overcome our fear of growing old?
Jiřina Šiklová (Czech Republic)
Chair: Svetlana Žuchová (Slovakia)

17:00 Panel VIII: On Protest
Pussy Riot, their appearance in an Orthodox church, the punishment handed down to them, and the unexpected worldwide outrage have revived the broader question of what qualifies as art and what does not. Where does art‘s political power lie? And what makes art attractive to politics?
Anna Jermolaewa (Russia), Anna Daučíková (Slovakia), Bertrand Ogilvie (France), Alison Klayman (USA)
Chair: Michal Hvorecký (Slovakia)

Central European Forum 2012 is organized by civic association Project Forum in cooperation with Václav Havel Library and civic association Česko-Slovenské Mosty.

Main partners of the conference are ERSTE Foundation and EACEA: The Education, Audiovisual and Culture Executive Agency.

Partners: International Visegrad Fund, Slovenská sporiteľňa Foundation, Central European Foun-dation, Heinrich Boell Foundation, Polish Institute to Bratislava, Municipality of Bratislava, White Crow prize, Milan Šimečka Foundation, Astorka Theatre, Ohel David retirement house, Time to Talk: European Houses of Debate, French Institute in Slovakia, Embassy of the US, Embassy of the Netherlands, Goethe Institute to Bratislava, Artforum bookstore, Shtoor café, Skaritz Hotel, Roxy catering and Telekom.

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