The Czech Republic’s current ambassador to Britain, Michael Žantovský, has sealed deals with British and US publishing houses for a biography in English of former dissident leader and president Václav Havel, which should come out in 2014.
Žantovský told the business daily Hospodářské noviny that the biography would pay homage to Havel but be unbiased. “It will certainly not be about my relations with Havel,” he said.
The ambassador was Havel’s first press spokesman in January 1990, soon after the playwright turned dissident became the country’s first non-communist president in more than 40 years in the wake of the Velvet Revolution. Žantovský had earlier become one of the founding members of Civic Forum (OF), the broad grouping of opponents to communism who led the overthrow of the former regime and helped put former Czechoslovakia back on the road to democracy before splitting apart as traditional party politics remerged.
Žantovský later become chairman of the center-right Civic Democratic Alliance (ODA), one of the parties that emerged from the breakup of Civic Forum and which claimed to be its true successor, and was elected to the upper house of parliament, the Senate.
Hospodářské noviny reported that the publication rights to the biography in Britain had been bought by Grove Atlantic and in the US by Atlantic Press, citing literary agent Andrew Nurnberg. “Václav Havel on a political level belongs up there with Margaret Thatcher or Nelson Mandela, who will always remain in the consciousness of readers,” said Nurnberg. The biography should be released to coincide with the 25th anniversary of the Velvet Revolution.
Žantovský, who has been ambassador to the United States for Czechoslovakia and the Czech Republic and to Israel, previously worked as a journalist, translator and writer. His only previous biography was a work on the life and films of Woody Allen.
Havel died at the age of 75 on December 18 last year with international leaders quickly paying tribute to his lifetime contribution to freedom and human rights in his own country and internationally.