Veteran Culture Minister Pavel Dostal dies at 62
One of the Czech Republic's most popular public figures, Culture Minister Pavel Dostal, died on Sunday at the age of 62. Mr Dostal - playwright, theatre director, anti-Communist dissident and cabinet minister - had been fighting cancer of the pancreas for the past year. Rob Cameron looks back at a colourful life and a remarkable career.
"I don't know where I would start. It was the contribution of a person who lived a very creative life, as an actor but mostly as a politician, or I should say perhaps as a public figure, who set a certain standard of cultivated discourse for this country."
After the revolution, however, his career in the theatre resumed, and he soon took an active interest in politics. He was elected as an MP for the Social Democrats in 1996, and appointed Culture Minister in 1998, a post he kept until his death, making him the longest-serving minister since 1989. His views sometimes got him into trouble. One night, after leaving parliament, he was attacked and his face slashed for defending the country's Roma minority.
"The memory that I want to hold onto is sitting in a Mexican restaurant, having a wonderful meal and agreeing with each other totally while quarrelling. We came to a very basic disagreement about something about Czech Television, and yet we were the best of friends. I think for Dostal, the pure joy of living, and in this particular case of eating, bridged over all conflicts."
Pavel Dostal's absence will be keenly felt, not just in the lower house, but also in the two very different worlds of Czech politics and culture.