Bohumil Hrabal, a glass of water, and “a lightning strike of a novel.”


It’s a busy Monday, but our mind keeps straying to the seminal Another Look event last week on Frankenstein. And it brought to mind other Another Look events … for example, our February 2016 event on Bohumil Hrabal‘a Too Loud a Solitude.

One of the book’s most enthusiastic is Peter Orner, writing in “Night Train to Split” in Guernica (an excerpt from his new book Am I Alone Here?: Notes on Living to Read and Reading to Live (Catapult):

“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.”

There’s another reason Hrabal came to mind, however. Before last week’s event, we had a nice chat with Meri Mitsuyoshi, who shared  this arresting photo she took last year while reading Hrabal’s dystopian mixture of enlightenment, hope, and despair. “A lighting strike of a novel”? I think the whimsical and grim Czech writer would prefer the rainbow that flashed across the page where he described the Gypsy girls.

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