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Vaclav Havel's prison letters are unlike anything else he has ever written. Though addressed from jail to his wife, Olga, they might, as his Czech editor Jan Lopatka has suggested, be read as a novel of "character and destiny", in which the hero's quest is a battle in which he must, in the act of putting words to paper, discover the meaning of his life and snatch it from the jaws of nothingness. These letters, says his translator Paul Wilson, "climax in a dramatic spiral of pure thought mingled with an experience of almost ...

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