“If a book has anything to say, it burns with a quiet laugh, because any book worth its salt points up and out of itself.” (Photo: Hana Hamplová)
“The first time I finished Too Loud a Solitude, I was up in Letná Park, and I remember leaping off the bench and running around in circles, holding the book above my head and shouting because I believed I’d experienced some religious illumination. A brief, ninety-eight-page, lightning strike of a novel, the book is about a man named Haňťa who has been crushing paper beneath a street in Prague for the last thirty-five years. People throw paper and books, books by the barrelful, down Haňťa’s hole in the pavement. Before he crushes them, Haňťa reads. The book of Ecclesiastes, the Talmud, Goethe, Schiller, Nietzsche, Immanuel Kant’s Theory of the Heavens. Kant, who argues that the heavens are not humane, nor is life above or below.”
.At 7:30 p.m. on Monday, February 6, at the Bechtel Conference Center, the Another Look book club will discuss Czech author Hrabal’s Too Loud a Solitude, a dystopian novella on the indestructibility of the written word.
“Too Loud a Solitude
is an elegy for literacy. It is also about how worship of unfettered technological progress invariably results in a trouncing of the human spirit. And it is about how only individual human memory has the unique power to redeem us,” Orner writes (read the whole thing here
Hrabal’s novella was published in a samizdat edition in Prague in 1976, and later published more widely after Communist rule ended in 1989. Its aging narrator runs a hydraulic press that crushes books and paper into bales. He rescues the best volumes for himself, and over time his thoughts and feelings merge with the treasures from the past – Hegel and the Talmud, Lao-Tze and Kant. According to the New York Times,
“Mr. Hrabal’s is a cry of expiring humanism, and Too Loud a Solitude
is a book to salvage from the deadly indifference that is more effective in killing the letter than the most sophisticated compacting machine.” You can read the New York Times
Acclaimed author Robert Pogue Harrison
will moderate the discussion. The Stanford professor who is Another Look’s director writes regularly for The New York Review of Books
and hosts the popular talk show, Entitled Opinions
. He will be joined by Stanford Prof. Hans Ulrich “Sepp” Gumbrecht
, a European public intellectual and a prolific author, and German Prof. Karen Feldman
of the University of California, Berkeley, whose research explores the nexus between literature and philosophy.
Another Look is a seasonal book club that draws together Stanford’s top writers and scholars with distinguished figures from the Bay Area and beyond. The books are Stanford’s picks for short masterpieces you may not have read before. The events are free and open to the public.
Too Loud a Solitude is available at Stanford Bookstore, and also will stocked at Kepler’s in Menlo Park and Bell’s Books in Palo Alto.