President Lee C. Bollinger has announced that the Columbia University Arts Initiative (CUAI) will offer an eight-week residency at Columbia for Václav Havel, starting in mid-October. During that time, students, faculty and community members will hear, firsthand and informally, about the challenges and rewards of the Czech leader's life as an artist-citizen.
Born in Prague in 1936, Havel began his career as a writer and dramatist. After being banned from the theater, he emerged as a leading dissident, helping to mastermind the bloodless overthrow of communism known as the Velvet Revolution and in the process, serving as the last president of Czechoslovakia and the first president of the Czech Republic. Now retired from politics and devoted to human rights causes, he recently released his first book in 15 years, Prosim Strucne (Briefly, Please), a literary collage framed in a theatrical structure.
Havel is following in the footsteps of theater director Peter Brook, who, during his CUAI-sponsored residency in spring 2005, worked at integrating his art with life at a major urban university. One of Havel's plays will be studied in the Literature Humanities course, and Havel will deliver the annual Core Curriculum lecture for sophomores.
Meanwhile, CUAI director Gregory Mosher hopes to find ways to tie Havel's work to the various human rights archives housed at Columbia.