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Book Title: Я обслуговував англійського короля|
The author of the book: Bohumil Hrabal
Date of issue: 2009
ISBN: No data
ISBN 13: No data
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 546 KB
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Reader ratings: 6.6
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Czechs say Bohumil Hrabal's work is untranslatable. When I read Too Loud a Solitude I indeed felt something wasn't coming through. But I chalked it up to a style of Eastern European literature: dark, allegorical, an unfiltered cigarette of protest to communist grime. Glad I read it but no rush to read any more Hrabal.
And then I stopped in a used bookstore, just this week. Monday. There was I Served the King of England. I jimmied it out and thumbed it open, expecting to read a sentence or two and slide it back. Instead I read this:
When I started to work at the Golden Prague Hotel, the boss took hold of my left ear, pulled me up, and said, You're a busboy here, so remember, you don't see anything and you don't hear anything. Repeat what I just said. So I said I wouldn't see anything and I wouldn't hear anything. Then the boss pulled my right ear and said, But remember too that you've got to see everything and hear everything. That's how I began.
I'm only human. So I took it home and rushed to finish what else I was reading. I started Tuesday. I followed Ditie, the busboy, from hotel to hotel. From busboy to waiter. I was always lucky in my bad luck, he said.
I'm trying to tell you about this in a way that will not be full of spoilers.
(view spoiler)[Eventually the Germans come, first in the form of a lovely Nazi gym instructor. She weds Ditie, but not before the high comedy of Ditie being examined by Nazi doctors to see if his sperm is acceptable. Their superior blood child may be autistic. What he does, and only does, is pound nails into the floor. Ditie will hear them always. Ditie survives the war, becomes a millionaire hotel owner. By this point he has been a Nazi sympathizer and a beneficiary of commandeered Jewish property. But somehow remains completely lovable. The communists come and take it all away. (hide spoiler)]
Well, I guess that didn't work.
Instead, let me tell you one anecdote. See, Ditie, as you can imagine, meets many different characters. One is Mr. Šíba, the soccer referee. Nobody wanted to referee the Sparta-Slavia match because the crowd always insulted the referee. So Mr. Šíba agreed to do it. He practiced by running through the birch trees, reprimanding and threatening Burger and Braine with expulsion, but mostly yelling at Mr. Říha, One more time and you're out of the game. A headwaiter took a bus of inmates from an asylum, along with a barrel of beer, to watch. That small story can not have anything but a happy ending.
_____ _____ _____ _____ _____
Eventually, Ditie realizes this: although the stars were visible at night, at noon you could see them only from the bottom of a deep well. So, like Murakami, he goes for introspection. The book did not wane here.
_____ _____ _____ _____ _____
See, I've been doing this thing with reading friends, real life reading friends. We meet sometime before Christmas, in some place that serves alcoholic beverages, and, in turn, announce our top ten books of the year list. This started with two guys on bar napkins and no preparation, to seven, down to a more manageable five, but with hand-out typed lists. Civility moderates. Tonight, Thursday, was that night. I was pretty satisfied with my list about a month ago. Independent People had been on the bubble but then I read Mo Yan's Frog and I thought I was set. But as the weeks passed, I weighed which books resonated most, and Iceland appeared to be the final journey.
But, as I said, I started I Served the King of England Tuesday. By the time Ditie had to masturbate for the Nazi doctors (Wednesday on my calendar), I had to see whether he passed the ethnic purity test. I wasn't howling. Just smiling on every page. Who says Hrabal can't be translated?
So I woke this morning, 120 pages to go. It could be the first book next year. But readers, you know how it is.
Iceland Sagas and Chinese one-child policy novels would have to be runners-up. This was too good not to make the list. How often do I give 5 stars?
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Read information about the authorBorn in Brno-Židenice, Moravia, he lived briefly in Polná, but was raised in the Nymburk brewery as the manager's stepson.
Hrabal 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, including The Little Town Where Time Stood Still (Městečko, kde se zastavil čas) and I Served the King of England (Obsluhoval jsem anglického krále).
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.
He was buried in a family grave in the cemetery in Hradištko. In the same grave his mother "Maryška", step father "Francin", uncle "Pepin", wife "Pipsi" and brother "Slávek" were buried.
He wrote with an expressive, highly visual style, often using long sentences; in fact his work Dancing Lessons for the Advanced in Age (1964) (Taneční hodiny pro starší a pokročilé) is made up of just one sentence. Many of Hrabal's characters are portrayed as "wise fools" - simpletons with occasional or inadvertent profound thoughts - who are also given to coarse humour, lewdness, and a determination to survive and enjoy oneself despite harsh circumstances. Political quandaries and their concomitant moral ambiguities are also a recurrent theme.
Along with Jaroslav Hašek, Karel Čapek and Milan Kundera - who were also imaginative and amusing satirists - he is considered one of the greatest Czech writers of the 20th century. His works have been translated into 27 languages.
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