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Václav Havel’s Agent Discusses His Literary Work

It's difficult to say if Havel was, before all else, one particular person or another. His plays concerned political themes, yet he kept writing plays while he was deep into real politic. But, it seems he began and ended as an author - so let's go with that.

Vaclav Havel

Vaclav Havel, ©2000 Eddie Adams

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Václav Havel’s literary agent Jitka Sloupová on his plays, their foreign productions and his image as an author

by Jan Richter


The late Václav Havel is now being remembered as a great statesman and human rights advocate. But he was also a prominent literary figure. In fact, before he became an opposition leader in communist Czechoslovakia, he was already established playwright whose plays appeared on stages worldwide. Václav Havel’s literary agent Jitka Sloupová, from the Aura Pont agency, talks about what inspired his dramas that quickly gained acclaim both at home and abroad.

“As a playwright, Václav Havel appeared at a time when the wave of absurdist theatre was culminating in the 1950s but was very much in fashion in the 1960s. His plays were absurdist but they were naturally absurdist because they reflected the reality of the ruling regime in Czechoslovakia and other Eastern European countries. By that time, the regime was already in a crisis which made the elements of the absurd more visible; they were ridiculous at one moment and tragic at another.”

In his plays, Václav Havel used various elements of the regime that was around him, particularly its bureaucratic language. In one of his pieces, he even coined a term for that – ptydepe. Do you think that people in the West who had no direct experience with the communist regime, understand his plays?