Saturday, March 24, 2012

On Václav Havel

In the Nation, Caleb Crain writes of Václav Havel's significance and moral integrity, and touches on Havel's views on the importance of theatre:

Theater is capable of bringing a group of people into a new understanding of themselves, in Havel’s opinion. “A single performance for a few dozen people,” he wrote to (his first wife) Olga, “can be incomparably more important than a television serial viewed and talked about by the entire country.” Havel’s faith may seem quaint today, when impact is measured in sales or page views. But he insisted on it for other forms of art as well. If only twenty people read a novel, he wrote in his open letter to Husák, “the fact of its existence would still be important.” As “the main instrument of society’s self-awareness,” culture is like a vitamin. A society can survive without it for a while, subsisting instead on the “slick, trivial, and predigested” entertainment products of a totalitarian regime, but not forever. Censorship is not the only way to starve a society; it can also be deprived of essential nutrients by a diet of junk. 

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