The last few days have seen the deaths of four men with deep ties - for better and for worse - to the Cold War, communism and the world of words. 

Revolutionary: In Prague, mourners gathered to remember the poet and statesman Vaclav Havel in Wenceslas Square, the center of the Velvet Revolution in 1989.

Despot: In this video, North Koreans weep hysterically - if not entirely convincingly - over the loss of Kim Jong Il, aka the “Ever-Victorious, Iron-Willed Commander.”

Agitator: Christopher Hitchens, a booze-fueled man of eloquence, wit, and very complicated politics. Here he is, offending everyone in his gorgeous voice. (Video opens in a new window)

Christopher Hitchens

Socialist Bookseller: George Whitman reopened the legendary Shakespeare and Company bookshop in Paris, described as “a socialist utopia masquerading as a bookstore” and one of our very favorite places in the world.

More Hitchens, Whitman, Havel & Jong Il

Christopher Hitchens, George Whitman and Vàclav Havel: Three Dead Wise Men, Spectator Book Blog

As relevant now as when it was fiurst written: Vaclav Havel “The Power of the Powerless”(1978)

Shakespeare and Company was only part bookshop; it was also part library, part youth hostel and part cultural shrine.” George Whitman’s obituary,

“Unspoken Truths” Christopher Hitchens, on voice in Vanity Fair

List of Kim Jong-il’s many, many titles Dear Leader, who is a perfect incarnation of the appearance that a leader should have


Prague Metronome

Prague, Czech Republic

Overlooking Prague, a red metronome memorializes the Czech struggles under communism


International Friendship

Mount Myohyang, North Korea

A bizarre collection of gifts to North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il from the despots of the world


Shakespeare & Company

Paris, France

Beloved bookshop serves double duty as a “Tumbleweed Hotel”


Join us each Monday on Twitter and follow our #morbidmonday hashtag, for new odd and macabre themes each week: Atlas Obscura on Twitter


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