Finding Havel, Prague


Today we walked down a side street, not far from Tescos, and at a fairly anonymous wooden door rang a doorbell. A woman answered. “Is this the place for the exhibition?” I asked and she smiled and held the door open, apologising for not speaking English. No matter, she spoke German, and so she led us through an empty room with bookshelves at one end and piles of folding chairs beneath the windows. “This is where we hold our events,” she said, before taking us into a small room underneath those typical Prague Old Town arches. The room housed an exhibition titled “Václav Havel in a Nutshell”, his life story told on touchscreens with quotes and photographs filling all the space on the walls.

Prague’s celebration of the playwright, dissident President is modest, and you would only find the exhibition if you know about it and have the confidence to ring the doorbell. At first you think it is a shame that this is not more accessible, in the “Top Ten of Prague” to lead off every guidebook, but in the end it does not matter. He was one of the best, and in 15 sqm it was all there. Truth and love must triumph over lies and hatred, he said on Wenceslas Square on the 10th December 1989. He was right then, and he would be right today. They charged us nothing to visit the exhibition, and so I bought a couple of postcards. A tiny contribution. And so Václav Havel will look down on me as I work at my desk… one of the good guys.

Anyone who takes himself too seriously always runs the risk of looking ridiculous; anyone who can consistently laugh at himself does not.

Words: Paul Scraton
Picture: Katrin Schönig

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