Broadside for Catastrophe

Dublin Core


Broadside for Catastrophe


Beckett, Samuel, 1906-1989. Catastrophe.


Catastrophe : for Václav Havel; illustration by Joseph Mugnaini. 
Spec copy 2: Letter A; signed by Samuel Beckett and Joseph Mugnaini.
Beckett was invited the International Association for the Defense of Artists to write a piece in support of Havel, a jailed dissident Czech writer. "Catastrophe" was an opportunity for Beckett to express solidarity with a victimized writer without being overtly political or otherwise going against his style of writing. Havel was deeply touched (see text of letter from Havel to Beckett) and upon his release wrote a play in response to it and dedicated to Beckett. Havel went on to become the last president of Czechoslovakia and the first president of the Czech Republic.


Beckett, Samuel


PR6003.E283 C3513 1983 c.2


[Northridge, Calif.] : Lord John Press




1966-1989 exhibit case

Václav Havel had written to Samuel Beckett about Catastrophe, six weeks after his release from prison:

Dear Samuel Beckett,

During the dark fifties when I was 16 or 18 of age, in a country where there were virtually no cultural or other contacts with the outside world, luckily I had the opportunity to read “Wating for Godot”. Later, of course I read all your plays, from among which I seem to have been addressed most forcefully by “Happy Days”. It may be foolish expression, but I am looking for a better one in vain: from the first you have been for me a deity in the heavens of spirit. I have been immensely influenced by you as a human being, and in a way as a writer, too. There can never disappear the memory of the adventurous search for, and finding of, spiritual values in the void around me. Even today, after several decades, when I am perhaps older than you were at the time of “Godot”, I cannot but feel the consequences of my coming across your work.

I mention all this to make clearer to you the shock I experienced during my time in prison when on the occasion of one of her one-hour visits allowed four times a year, my wife told me in the presence of an obtuse warder that at Avignon there took place a night of solidarity with me, and that you took the opportunity to write, and make public for the first time, your play “Catastrophe”. For a long time afterwards there accompanied me in the prison a great joy and emotion and helped to live on amidst all the dirt and baseness.

The joy had several dimensions to which pertained not only the fact that you are for me what I tried to suggest above, but also my awareness that you are not one of those who gives themselves away in small changes – so that your participation in the Avignon event is even more valuable.

Thank you very much indeed. You not only helped me in a beautiful way during my prison days, but by doing what you did you demonstrated your deep understanding for the meaning of affliction which those who are not indifferent to the run of things have to take upon themselves occasionally, at the present time just as well as they had to do in the past.

With best regards and all good wishes

Yours ever

Václav Havel

Prague, 17.4.1983

The Letters of Samuel Beckett, 1966-1989, n. 4 p. 77


1 broadside : illustrated; 57 x 38 cm.
jpeg; 300 ppi








1 leaf




Beckett, Samuel, “Broadside for Catastrophe,” WUSTL Digital Gateway Image Collections & Exhibitions, accessed February 24, 2021,