In This Review

The Power of the Powerless: Citizens Against the State in Central-Eastern Europe
The Power of the Powerless: Citizens Against the State in Central-Eastern Europe
Edited by John Keane
Sharpe, 1985, 228 pp.

The pièce de résistance, on which the other contributions are essentially elaboration and commentary, is the title essay by Václav Havel. In the post-totalitarian state, as he calls it (the term describes his native Czechoslovakia under the "normalization" that followed 1968 but applies to all of Eastern Europe), he finds a profound crisis of human identity brought about by "living within a lie," and real political significance in the individual's moral choice for truth and in the creation of an independent life for society even though the system of bureaucratic coercion continues. It is a notable fact that all the contributors, early adherents of Charter 77, are distinguished men of letters in Czechoslovakia. The essays, newly translated, were written several years ago.