To The Castle And Back | Granta

  • Published: 01/01/2009
  • ISBN: 9781846271380
  • 129x20mm
  • 400 pages

To The Castle And Back

Vaclav Havel

Translated by Paul Wilson

As president first of Czechoslovakia and then of the nascent Czech Republic, Havel led central Europe out of communism and into the twenty-first century before stepping down in February 2003. In this illuminating memoir, he recollects his thirteen years at Prague Castle during this pivotal period, writing with wit, charm and candour about the peculiar life of a statesman and his lack of readiness for the surreal challenges of governing a young democracy, as well as reflecting on the future of the EU and the reach of the American superpower, and explaining why he has come to believe the war in Iraq is a fiasco. And then there are the personal revelations, as he speaks for the first time about his battle with lung cancer, the death of his first wife, Olga, and the controversy that has dogged his relationship with his second wife. Infused with characteristic humour, To the Castle and Back is an engaging self-portrait of one of the most important figures of our time.

A political memoir like no other ... by the end you will have a remarkable feel for Havel's intricate personality - spiky, shy and under-confident but inwardly tough - as well as a compelling record of what candour and moral courage can achieve

The Economist

Most books are quite like other books. This one isn't. It is unlike any statesman's memoirs I have ever read and Havel's story is an extraordinary one

Ferdinand Mount, Sunday Times

The Author

Vaclav Havel was born in Czechoslovakia in 1936. His plays have been produced around the world, and he is the author of many influential essays and speeches on totalitarianism, dissent and democratic renewal. He was a founding spokesman for Charter 77, and served as president of the Czech Republic until 2003. He died in December 2011.

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The Translator

Paul Wilson was born in 1960. He is the author of four previous novels, The Fall from Grace of Harry Angel, Days of Good Hope, Do White Whales Sing at the Edge of the World? and Noah, Noah. He lives in Darwen, Lancashire, and works in the field of learning disability.

More about the translator →

Vaclav Havel on

Essays & Memoir | The Online Edition

To the Castle and Back

Václav Havel

‘I am announcing that I have returned from the USA. I thank all of those who worked in the domestic resistance. Likewise I thank all of us who worked in the foreign resistance.’

Essays & Memoir | The Online Edition

Meeting Gorbachev

Václav Havel

‘By now the Glasnost Tsar has reached the spot where I am standing. He is rather short and stocky, a cuddly ball-like figure hemmed in by his gigantic bodyguards, giving the impression of someone shy and helpless.’

Essays & Memoir | The Online Edition

Letters from Prison

Václav Havel & Jiří Dienstbier

‘When the governor forbade Havel to write essays, ordering him to write only about himself, he started a series on his fifteen different moods.’