The former Czech president and playwright would have invited JK Rowling over for a beer

On a summer’s day in the bloody year of 1991, when the promise of a free and democratic Eastern bloc had descended into the nightmare of Yugoslav dissolution, I returned to Prague from a month of (undistinguished and deeply depressing) war corresponding and was immediately invited, along with the rest of the resident foreign press corps, to President Václav Havel’s enchanting country residence at Chateau Lány, Francis Harris writes in The Critic.

Unwashed, probably malodorous and very casually dressed, I was a figure of interest. Here was a man from the front. What was it like? What could I say? Nasty, pointless and extremely frightening (“Can you imagine dying in a village no one can even pronounce?” a colleague had asked me in Croatia).

But the real revelation of that blessed sunny afternoon on Lány’s groomed lawns, studded with increasingly intoxicated gaggles of hacks and presidential staff, feasting on spicy klobásy and bottles of Czech lager, was the message from his advisers.

Rowling did not suggest she was using Havel to draw a parallel to the fractious issue of trans ideology.

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