"Havel", introduction by Milos Forman

Painting portraits of rulers has always been a risky business. At the end of the 18th century, Spanish Queen Maria Luisa called on court painter Francesco Goya to paint her portrait (only God knows how many had already been done). The Inquisition pricked up its ears. The Head Inquisitor had wanted to get rid of Goya for a long time, but Goya had powerful friends at the court and it was thought best not to make waves there. But now the Inquisitors were told (they had their spies everywhere) that Goya was painting a portrait of the Queen so true to life that it was almost certain that the Queen, after seeing it, would become as furious as a windstorm. Everyone was waiting impatiently. Finally Goya declared the portrait finished and the Queen Maria Luisa and the King Charles the Fourth entered the hall. They looked at the portrait... they looked at it for a long time. The courtiers who were present tried vainly to read the verdict on their faces. The royal couple didn't move an eyebrow and left. After a long time, the chamberlain entered and asked Goya to come into the King's study. All who were present wondered what it meant. Could it be that the Queen was so furious that she had asked her husband to settle the account with Goya ? After Goya entered the King's study he hadn't waited a single minute before the King appeared. He gave Goya an unreadable glance, didn't say a word, and went to a window where a violin case was lying on a comode. The king opened the case, took out the violin, turned his face to the stiff Goya, put the violin under his chin, and began to play. And play, and play, and play, and play... He was playing his own composition. After he finished, he looked at Goya and, without uttering a word, he left. The Inquisitors were then speculating as to what the King, through his playing, was trying to suggest. Perhaps it remains to add that Jiri Jiru is not a painter but a photographer, and that President Vaclav Havel isn't playing his composition on a violin but on stage, and that the Inquisitors of yesterday have merged with the crowd. We profited by getting the Queen's portrait and now this book in rememberance.

[Milos Forman, New York]