Sixth Edition of A Princely Life


In the course of the 24th Book World Prague book fair, a book of interviews conducted by the journalist Karel Hvížďala with former president Havel's chancellor and minister of foreign affairs Karel Schwarzenberg has been published again. Far from a simple reprint, this is a sixth re-edition featuring various revisions. The literary debate moderated by Jiří Peňás was attended, besides the author and the protagonist, also by the former Czech Prime Minister Petr Pithart and the Schwarzenberg family friend Tomáš Czernin.

Karel Hvížďala recalled the origins of the book. The initial interview was held in early January 1989, but wasn't authorised until 7 years later, since neither of the interested parties had the time to do it due to the dramatic historical events. Karel Schwarzenberg is a walking archive of our political history, but still Karel Hvížďala had to rely on more sources than just his memory. He had all the historical data checked by three of four highly competent exile historians, the result being that Karel Schwarzenberg's answers were historically remarkably precise.

In his answers, Karel Schwarzenberg touches on the long since forgotten term land patriotism. It was the type of patriotism that the aristocracy had felt towards to the territory of the Czech state, rather than patriotism in the national sense, i.e. a declared belonging to a certain ethnicity. This type of national patriotism was later to prove highly problematic.

Karel Schwarzenberg also confessed to one strongly emotional experience. When he was around ten years old, he was presented with a radio and one of the first pieces of news he heard on it was a report of the death of the minister of foreign affairs Jan Masaryk. Even back then he was sure it had been a suicide. And as a ten-year-old he made a solemn promise to himself that he would never betray his ideals and would return to Bohemia as a free man one day. He believed in this for many years and thanks to his faith it eventually happened.

And how does Karel Schwarzenberg see our present days? "As a society, we have grown immensely rich. Materially, I mean. Our historic architecture has been repaired, our town squares literally shine. But in exchange for this material success, we have forfeited out ideals. Simply said, we have traded ideals for unexpected wealth."