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Havel, Kafka and Us

December 21st, 2011 - 7:22 pm

Watching the video took me back to the day I first visited Prague and saw the castle where Havel’s body lies in state.  I think of it as The Castle, Kafka’s Castle, and if you go up the big hill to Kafka’s house, which hangs over the side over the beautiful city, you may have the same reaction I did:  it’s not at all the way I imagined it when I read Kafka.  I imagined one of those British castles, a Robin Hoody sort of castle with a moat and a drawbridge and a single structure for the lord of the domain.  But no.  “The Castle” has lots of buildings, and it’s kind of baffling.  Very Kafkaesque, so to speak.  The church gives it a certain logic, but otherwise it’s hard to figure out where the center of power lies.  Fortunately there’s a sign with an arrow pointing to the government offices.

Havel loved to write “absurdist” plays and poems.  He was a true heir to Kafka.  Like Kafka, he had an uncanny grasp of the dynamics and resulting horrors of bureaucracy.  And, like Kafka, he was a Zionist.

Unlike Kafka, he found a political vocation, showing once again that you never know how it’s going to turn out.

He’ll be buried on the hill, as he should be.  I rather hope he’ll be buried in jeans and a sweater, his favorite uniform. And in a way it’s proper that Obama not attend the funeral.  He’d be totally out of place in the presence of a real leader, an anti-narcissist, a man of great substance and great faith, who warned that without a firm grasp of moral  principles we are lost.

One by one the great men and women of the generation that survived Nazism and defeated Communism are passing away.  The current crop are midgets compared to Havel and his contemporaries, and we can only hope that a new generation of worthy leaders is on the way.  As he hoped.  And showed the way.

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