The University of Iowa International Writing Program (IWP) was viewed with suspicion by Iron Curtain countries during the depths of the Cold War. The Eastern European writers who were allowed to participate could expect to be taken into custody immediately upon their return home, for debriefing to determine if their thinking had been polluted by contact with the decadent West.
Other writers were simply denied permission to depart for Iowa City. Among the writers from the Communist bloc who were prevented from attending, one stood out, although not immediately. The world is now mourning the Dec. 18 passing of Vaclav Havel, the widely honored first president of a democratic Czech Republic whose plans to attend the IWP were derailed 43 years ago.