Bohumil Hrabal

Bohumil Hrabal (1914–1997) was born in Moravia and started writing poems under the influence of French surrealism. In the early 1950s, he began to experiment with a stream-of-consciousness style, and eventually wrote such classics as Closely Watched Trains (made into an Academy Award-winning film directed by Jiri Menzel), The Death of Mr. Baltisberger, and Too Loud a Solitude. He fell to his death from the fifth floor of a Prague hospital, apparently trying to feed the pigeons.

All My Cats

Nonfiction by Bohumil Hrabal

Translated by Paul Wilson

In the autumn of 1965, flush with the unexpected success of his first published books, the Czech author Bohumil Hrabal bought a weekend cottage in Kersko, about an hour’s drive east of Prague. From then until his death in 1997, he divided his time between Prague and Kersko, where he wrote and tended to a community of cats. Over the years, his relationship to them grew deeper and more complex, becoming a measure of the pressures, both private and public, that impinged on his life as a writer.…
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The Gentle Barbarian

Nonfiction by Bohumil Hrabal

Translated by Paul Wilson

The Gentle Barbarian is Bohumil Hrabal’s homage to Vladimír Boudník, one of the greatest Czech artists of the 1950s and 1960s, whose life came to a tragic end shortly after the Soviet invasion of 1968. Boudník and Hrabal had a close and often contentious friendship. For a brief period, in the early 1950s, they worked in the Kladno steel works and lived in the same building in Prague. Written in the early seventies, Hrabal’s anecdotal portrait of Boudník includes another controversial member of that early group of the Czech avant-garde: the poet Egon Bondy.…
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Mr. Kafka and Other Tales from the Time of the Cult

Fiction by Bohumil Hrabal

Translated from the Czech by Paul Wilson

Never before published in English, the stories in Mr. Kafka and Other Tales from the Time of the Cult were written mostly in the 1950s and present the Czech master Bohumil Hrabal at the height of his powers. The stories capture a time when Czech Stalinists were turning society upside down, inflicting their social and political experiments on mostly unwilling subjects. These stories are set variously in the gaslit streets of post-war Prague; on the raucous and dangerous factory floor of the famous Poldi steelworks where Hrabal himself once worked; in a cacophonous open-air dance hall where classical and popular music come to blows; at the basement studio where a crazed artist attempts to fashion a national icon; on the scaffolding around a decommissioned church.…
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I Served the King of England

Fiction by Bohumil Hrabal

First published in 1971 in a typewritten edition, then finally printed in book form in 1989, I Served the King of England is “an extraordinary and subtly tragicomic novel” (The New York Times), telling the tale of Ditie, a hugely ambitious but simple waiter in a deluxe Prague hotel in the years before World War II. Ditie is called upon to serve not the King of England, but Haile Selassie. It is one of the great moments in his life.…
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Hrabal is a spider of a writer: subtle and sly, patient, with invisible designs. He never proclaims — he never needs to. He envelops.

—Parul Sehgal, New York Times Book Review

All seven tales thrum with Hrabal’s characteristic rambunctious energy and are tinged with flurries of comic absurdity and ghoulish mayhem.

—Malcolm Forbes, The National

An often powerful and occasionally unnerving collection of stories from a half-century ago […] the timelessness of the best of these stories attests to a human spirit undimmed by the darkest of circumstances.

Kirkus Reviews

Mr. Kafka and Other Tales from the Time of the Cult shows off a distinctly different Hrabal than the one English-language readers have grown accustomed to.

—Hal Hlavinka, The Quarterly Conversation

This strange, revealing collection is major document of class consciousness, protest, and the Eastern Bloc.

Publishers Weekly

The essence of Hrabal’s fiction is to draw beauty from what isn’t, to find hope where we’re not likely to look … to show that we are all of us ‘magnificent.’

—Meghan Forbes, The Los Angeles Review of Books

One of the most authentic incarnations of magical Prague, an incredible union of earthy humor and baroque imagination.

—Milan Kundera

Hrabal’s magical stories are comic and human–they are really desires embodied… . They inhabit a utopian province, the realm of laughter and tears.

—James Wood, London Review Of Books

An extraordinary and subtly tragicomic novel.

The New York Times

Hrabal, in Freud’s terms, is a great humorist. And a great writer.

—James Wood
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