Friday, October 06, 2006

Birthday wishes

Vaclav Havel, the Czech dissident, intellectual and one-time president, turned 70 yesterday.

It was big news in the Czech Republic but not elsewhere, which is a pity since Havel is without doubt one of the great historical figures of the late 20th Century.

Anyway, to mark the occasion, Prague Radio interviewed Paul Wilson, a Canadian who has translated Havel’s work into English and who considers himself a friend of the man who was instrumental in the fall of Communism in what used to be Czechoslovakia.

During the interview, Wilson talks about Havel’s continuing and admirable campaign on behalf of Cuban dissidents and Cuban democracy.

Why Cuba? Why such commitment to an island so far away?

“I think that in the case of Cuba specifically, he and many other Czechs are trying to somehow articulate the experience that they have had,” Wilson explained.

“Not only living under communism - which gives them an automatic sympathy with the Cuban people - but also to try to figure out what it is in their experience of transitioning, if you like, from communism to democracy, that might be useful for the Cubans because it will inevitably be a choice that they'll have to face. Castro will die at some point.”


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