Žantovský wants to bring Havel Library closer to people

Žantovský wants to bring Havel Library closer to people

September 13, 2015

Events are planned for what would have been Havel’s 80th birthday

Prague, Sept 13 (ČTK) — Michael Žantovský, new director of the Prague-seated Václav Havel Library, wants to extend its activities also to reach outside Prague and abroad, and bring them closer to people, he has said in an interview with the Czech News Agency.

Žantovský, 66, former journalist and translator, former friend of and spokesman for President Havel in the 1990s, and until recently Czech ambassador to Britain, replaced Marta Smolíková at the head of the Václav Havel Library as from the beginning of September.

By taking up the post, Žantovský ended his work as a diplomat.

He told ČTK that he wants the Library’s activities not to concentrate on Prague intellectuals only as has been the case so far.

“Our ambition must be to address a broader range of citizens, including those outside Prague, those who only remember Havel as a political figure, young people, who view him as a figure from the past, and even the people who resented or resent him for various reasons. With them, too, we want to conduct a dialogue,” said Žantovský, who is the author of a book on Havel’s life and work.

“We cannot be friends only with those who have admired Havel for long…There are many other people,” he added.

He said he also wants the Library to organize more events abroad. The demand for Havel is strong mainly in Slovakia, Poland and the USA. he said.

As far as concrete projects are concerned, Žantovský plans to continue the digitization of Havel’s work.

Next year, he wants to mark Havel’s 80th birthday anniversary on the international level. The series of events will be entitled Havel@80. It is to include exhibitions, presentations as well as meetings with the people who were close to Havel or dealt with his personality or work somehow, Žantovský said.

The books of Havel father’s memoirs and interviews with Havel’s brother Ivan will be issued again, he said.

Žantovský said he would like the Library to attract more foreign tourists, for whom Havel is often one of only few “things” they know about the Czech Republic.

He said a large permanent exhibition on Havel will be installed in the central hall of the historical house in the Hradčany neighborhood, an attractive tourist destination near Prague Castle, which is to be the new seat of the Library and which has been under reconstruction in the past years.

By no means will the house host a museum of Havel, as he would never wish any such project to arise. In the documents Havel left behind, he said he wants a live, digital institution where people would meet, exchange opinions and do creative work, Žantovský said.

Václav Havel (1936–2011) was a playwright, former dissident, first post-communist president of Czechoslovakia (1989-92) and Czech president (1993-2003). He wrote more than 3,000 texts, 30 books and about 20 dramas. His collected works were published in eight volumes.

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