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Bohumil Hrabal, Too Loud a Solitude

2 Ratings: 5.0
A satirical novel from Chechoslowakia in the 1970s


Tags: Books, Communism, Libraries, Political Satyre
1 review about Bohumil Hrabal, Too Loud a Solitude

Keep a firm grip on the pitcher!

  • May 14, 2009
  • by

Now and then, I have the happy experience of discovering a new writer. Usually recommended by a friend, sometimes by a magazine review, or by another writer.


I knew Hrabal by name for a while, like my recent happy discoveries Kis and Oe, but had not read him until 2 of my amazon friends said I should.

So I did. Why not earlier? Actually, it is a good thing not to find everything at once.


Hanta, our hero, is not a man to be taken at face value. He works in a cellar and compacts paper garbage. In the process he collects books and digests them, by a rather unorthodox method.

At work, he drinks enormous quantities of beer. After 5 pitchers (which is 10 liters), he negotiates his stairs like a ladder.


(While I sympathize with this problem, ie how to climb stairs after 10 liters of beer, we should be aware that the good people of the Czech Republik play in a different league as far as beer consumption is concerned. They start with it for breakfast. After all, they invented Budweiser. But they should not be blamed for what the trade mark has come to signify.)


Taken in context, it is for sure not irrelevant to point out that the book was published in 1976, in the darkest years of the Prague Spring roll-back. Observations about the rat wars in the sewers, where rat tribes fight each other, and when one has won, it splits, so that the war can continue, are a brillant aphoristic commentary on historical dialectics and the ruling ideology. The cellars are full of intellectuals who are removed from the uplands for political reasons.


Reading this fable purely as a political satyre would certainly be too short an interpretation. But not recognizing that as a main component would be equally mistaken.


Hanta is disenchanted by the Brave New World. His competition has giant new machines for the job. No more manual labor! Paper and books and such stuff is compressed with enormous efficiency. The heroes of socialist labor don't even drink beer! Think of drinking milk at work! When even a cow will rather die of thirst than touch a drop of the stuff!


I will certainly go for Hrabal's other books now.

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