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 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 feral cats. Over the years, his relationship to cats grew deeper and more complex, becoming a measure of the pressures, both private and public, that impinged on his life as a writer.
Despite the tender love he feels for the cats, especially his favorites who share his bed, there are moments of intense violence—as he controls the feline population explosion explosively.
All My Cats, written in 1983 after a serious car accident, is best seen as a confessional memoir, the chronicle of an author who becomes overwhelmed by his cats and his life, and is driven to the brink of madness by the dilemmas his indulgent love for the animals have created. In the end, All My Cats becomes a book about Hrabal’s relationship to nature, about the unlikely sources of redemption that come to him unbidden, like a gift from the cosmos—and about love.