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The Art of the Impossible: Politics as Morality in Practice Hardcover – May 20, 1997

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

This collection of 35 essays written by the Czech playwright and human rights dissident who became the president of his country in 1989, focuses on the challenges facing an East learning democracy from scratch and a West unused to the multicultural complexities this process involves. Their organizing principle is that what is necessary now in politics and statecraft is the reaffirmation of values. "It will certainly not be easy," Havel writes, "to awaken in people a new sense of responsibility for the world, or to convince them to conduct themselves as if they were to live on this earth forever and be answerable for its condition one day. Who knows how many cataclysms humanity may have to experience before such a sense of responsibility is generally accepted? But this does not mean that those who wish to work for it cannot begin at once." The best vehicle for pulling this off, Havel says, are "those organisms that lie somewhere between nation-states and a world community." What he has in mind are "regional communities" like NATO, world organizations like the U.N., and another force that he thinks might be the best suited of all for this task--the mass media.

From Library Journal

Havel is the president of the Czech Republic as well as a dramatist and human rights activist, and this book presents approximately 35 of his speeches and writings given from 1990 to 1996. The selections are well chosen and illustrate how this postmodern politician has continuously tried to establish links among modern society, politics, and fundamental spiritual values both at the individual and collective levels. Havel believes strongly that spiritual and moral values must form the bedrock of all intergovernmental organizations, and he laments that politicians have become captives to the mass media to the point where Western electorates feel detached from their political systems. His spiritual journey combines his dramatist background and unique perspective on politics and politicians. An excellent book that will demand from readers invidious comparisons with their own political system and leaders, this is a terrific choice for all libraries.?Stephen W. Green, Auraria Lib., Denver
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 273 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf; 1 edition (May 20, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679451064
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679451068
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 6.2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #980,530 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Lubomir Ondrasek on August 24, 2002
Format: Hardcover
I hope Havel's own words (he is one of the few presidents who writes his own speeches, consistently with his life motto "living in the truth") will inspire you to buy and read "The Art of Impossible" and other books written by this humble and couragoues man. From Havel's writings one can learn much about history, politics, philosophy,psychology and art/theatre. Moreover, everyone reading Havel's works with an open mind and heart will be challenged to reflect on his/her own place in this world.

"For forty years on this day you heard, from my predecessors, variations on the same theme: how our country flourished, how many million tons of steel we produced, how happy we all were,
how we trusted our government, and what bright perspectives were unfolding before us. I assume you did not propose me for this office so that I, too, would lie to you. (New Year's Address to the Nation, Prague, January 1, 1990)
"But this is still not the main problem. The worst thing is that we live in a contaminated moral environment. We fell morally ill because we got used to saying something different from what we thought. We learned not to believe in anything, to ignore each other, to care only for ourselves. Concepts such as love, friendship, compassion, humility and forgiveness lost their
depth and dimension, and for many of us they came to represent only psychological pecularities, or to resemble long-lost greetings from the ancient times, a little ridiculous in the era of commuters and spaceships. ...When I talk about contaminated moral atmosphere, I am not talking just about the gentlemen who eat organic vegetables and do not look out of the planes windows, I am talking about all of us.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By J. Michael Cole on October 10, 2000
Format: Hardcover
The Art of the Impossible is, indeed, a very good introduction to the political philosophy of a great leader. Every lecture and article contained in this volume holds fabulous, almost poetic passages, and offers insights into the difficulties of leading a nation away from the physical and psychological devastation of communism. On some occasions Mr. Havel looks at his own position from a critical point of view, something we don't see very often in this kind of work.
This is a rather optimistic book, and every person who aspires to making our world a better - and safer - place for everyone, should definitely read it. It does not, however, provide us with solutions, but this is not what this work was intended for in the first place. What it does is identify the areas of politics we ought to concentrate on. The passages in which he argues for an increased participation of "intellectuals" in politics is particularly enlightening.
A commendable collection of lectures and essays, beautifully translated, which offers us a glimpse of a truly admirable man.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Erin L. Mayer on December 14, 1999
Format: Hardcover
The essays and speeches contained in this book provide an excellent introduction to Vaclav Havel, one of the most intelligent and conscientious political figures of this century. His discussions about democracy, forgiveness, the future of the former Soviet Union, the future of the Czech Republic and other themes are thoughtfully composed and eloquently expressed. No review that I can write can do justice to this man's incredible vision for his country, our world, and our future.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Once a writer in a repressed society, then president of Czechoslovakia, which then split into the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Quite an unusual politician. There is a series of speeches from various times of his presidency.
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An excellent book by a cultivated, sensitive and corageous statesman who was central to the effort of forging democracy in his native Czechoslovakia and in the building of modern Europe. A pleasure to read.
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