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A Worthy Heart

Václav Havel, 1936-2011.

Jan 2, 2012, Vol. 17, No. 16 • By CHRISTOPHER CALDWELL
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The gap that some people perceive between the freedom-oriented anti-Communists like Havel and power-oriented ones like Solzhenitsyn is largely illusory. Havel sees the moral imperative to resist lies precisely as Solzhenitsyn did in his great essay “Live Not By Lies.” “Even if all is covered by lies,” Solzhenitsyn wrote, “even if all is under their rule, let us resist in the smallest way: Let their rule hold not through me!” Certainly Havel learned from Solzhenitsyn. In his 1984 essay “Politics and Conscience,” he expressed the hope that “on this exposed rampart where the wind blows most sharply, it is possible to oppose personal experience and the natural world to the ‘innocent’ power and to unmask its guilt, as the author of The Gulag Archipelago has done.” It is probable that Solzhenitsyn learned something from Havel as well. As he left the Soviet Union for exile in February 1974, he drew encouragement from the resistance in Prague. “Betrayed and deceived by us,” he wrote, “did not a great European people—the Czechoslovaks—show us how one can stand down the tanks with bared chest alone, as long as inside it beats a worthy heart?”

Christopher Caldwell is a senior editor at The Weekly Standard.

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