Translator, writer and former diplomat Michael Žantovský (pictured on April 20, 2023).
Prague – Writer, translator and former diplomat Michael Žantovský has announced that he will retire from the Václav Havel Library as of June 1. He has led the institution, which takes care of the intellectual, literary and political legacy of the playwright, one-time dissident and former president Václav Havel, since September 2015. Žantovský did not say what his future activities will be in today's statement. He referred to an upcoming press release about the library's new look.
“After almost eight years, I will say goodbye to the Václav Havel Library on June 1. I am grateful that I could participate in this exciting journey and meaningful work. I thank everyone who supported me in it and helped to preserve, spread and defend the invaluable legacy of the fighter for human rights, playwrights and essayists and the Czechoslovak and Czech presidents. I look forward to meeting and working with many of you in the future,” wrote the seventy-four-year-old Žantovský on the library's Facebook page. When asked by ČTK, he later replied that a joint press release will be issued in the coming days regarding the transformation of the Václav Havel Library. “Then I'll be happy to answer other questions,” he added.
The Václav Havel Library was founded in 2004 after Havel's departure from the presidency, following the example of similar institutions in the USA. He collects various materials about Havel, publishes publications, organizes public events. It offers several dozens of titles detailing the life and work of Havel, his family and friends.
The activities of the library, which is located in Ostrovní Street in Prague's Old Town, are supported by the Zdenek and Michaela Bakalová Foundation. The members of the board of directors, which oversees the institution and appoints its director, are Dagmar Havlová, Michaela Bakala, Gabriel Eichler, Bozena Jirků, Martin Palouš, Milan Šimečka and Jacques Rupnik.
Žantovský, who was born on January 3, 1949 in Prague, studied psychology at Charles University. Until 1980, he worked as a researcher at the Psychiatric Research Institute in Prague, after which he made a living as a freelance translator, interpreter and columnist. He translated more than 50 works of modern Anglo-American prose, poetry and drama into Czech. He contributed to the samizdat press, from 1988 he was the Prague correspondent of the Reuters agency. He also wrote a book about the life and work of Woody Allen, he is the author of song lyrics for Pavel Bobek, Petr Novák, Karel Zich and a number of other musicians. He is the author of a number of books and publications, including an extensive biography of Havel, which was published in Czech, English and other languages.
In November 1989, Žantovský was at the birth of the Civic Forum and became its spokesperson. From January 1990 to the end of July 1992, he was a spokesman and adviser to President Václav Havel. In 1996, he joined the Civic Democratic Alliance (ODA) and twice briefly served as chairman of this party. Between 1996 and 2002, he was a senator for the ODA.
From 1992, Žantovský worked for five years as ambassador to the USA, and later headed the embassy in Israel and Great Britain. In 2015, he became the director of the Václav Havel Library.
This spring, he published a new book With forgiveness, in which he exaggerates his experiences with famous and powerful personalities. He recently became one of the foreign policy advisers of President Petr Pavel.