Václav Havel’s Meanings: His Key Words and Their Legacy

This volume, co-edited by David S. Danaher in GNS+ and Kieran Williams from Drake University, has been published by Prague-based Karolinum Press with North American distribution through University of Chicago Press starting this May.

The volume seeks to understand how certain words in Havel’s thought serve as intellectual touchstones around which his larger message takes shape.

The ten key words that represent running motifs in Havel’s writings (and also form the basis of his core philosophical vocabulary) that are analyzed in the volume are: appeal (apel, výzva), truth (pravda), power (moc), responsibility (odpovědnost), indifference (apatie, lhostejnost), home (domov), hotspot (ohnisko), theater (divadlo), prison (vězení), civil society (občanská společnost).

Ten contributors from a range of countries—all specialists, in one way or another, on Havel—use the methodological tools of their own disciplines to interrogate what Havel meant. Disciplines represented in the volume include political science and political philosophy, historical and cultural analysis, discourse/textual analysis, and linguistic-corpus analysis.

Given that Havel’s legacy has grown more relevant since his death in 2011 and that his writings continue to resonate globally in the face of threats to democracy, freedom, and the environment, contributors to the volume also explore how these concepts speak to us meaningfully in the here and now.