Matt Welch returns to Prague for Václav Havel’s funeral:
It’s a safe bet that in the history of state funerals, no former president has been sent off to the Absolute Horizon by not one but at least three different live, nationally televised rock songs about heroin.
Such was Václav Havel’s genre-straddling life and thoroughgoing conception of freedom that it seemed as natural as tartar sauce on fried cheese to bookend a portentous, Dvořák-haunted National Requiem Mass in Central Europe’s oldest Gothic cathedral with a loose-limbed, hash-scented rock and roll celebration at the Czech Republic’s most storied music venue, all while the non-VIPs on the streets of Prague (and their counterparts outside the capital) lent the most dignity of all to the three-day National Mourning by creating ad-hoc candlelit shrines in whatever patches of cobblestone reminded them of the man who made them most proud to be Czechs.
It was a remarkable memorial, one that — like Havel himself — could not have happened in any other city or country. Yet the celebration offered enough bread crumbs for non-Czechs to stumble upon the promise of forgotten political alchemies lurking just outside our daily view. I was there to pay my respects; here are some observations and pictures.