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Too Loud a Solitude (Bohumil Hrabal)

Too Loud a Solitude (Bohumil Hrabal)


A short novel by Czech writer Bohumil Hrabal, this eccentric romp celebrates the indestructibility — against censorship and political oppression — of the written word. It tells the story of an old man who works as a paper crusher in Prague, using his job to save and amass astounding numbers of rare and banned books; he is an obsessive collector of knowledge.


"For thirty-five years now I've been in wastepaper, and it's my love story." The entire story is narrated in the first person by the main character Hanta. Hanta is portrayed as a sort of recluse and hermit, albeit one with encyclopedic literary knowledge. Hanta uses metaphorical language and surreal descriptions, and much of the book is concerned with just his inner thoughts, as he recalls and meditates on the outlandish amounts of knowledge he has attained over the years. He brings up stories from his past and imagines the events of whimsical scenarios. He contemplates the messages of the vast numbers of intellectuals which he has studied. The novel is vibrant with symbolism. A simple but obscure plot is present, however.


Bohumil Hrabal (1914-1997) was born in Moravia. He received a Law degree from Prague's Charles University, and lived in the city from the late 1940s on. He worked as a manual laborer alongside Vladimír Boudník in the Kladno ironworks in the 1950s, an experience which inspired the "hyper-realist" texts he was writing at the time.


His best known novels were Closely Watched Trains (1965) and I Served the King of England. In 1965 he bought a cottage in Kersko, which he used to visit till the end of his life, and where he kept cats ("kočenky").


He was a great storyteller; his popular pub was At the Golden Tiger (U zlatého tygra) on Husova Street in Prague, where he met the Czech President Václav Havel, the American President Bill Clinton and the then-US ambassador to the UN Madeleine Albright on January 11th, 1994.


Several of his works were not published in Czechoslovakia due to the objections of the authorities. He died when he fell from a fifth floor hospital where he was apparently trying to feed pigeons. It was noted that Hrabal lived on the fifth floor of his apartment building and that suicides by leaping from a fifth-floor window were mentioned in several of his books.

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