Bohumil Hrabal was one of the most important and admired Czech writers of the twentieth century. He was born and raised in Brno in what was then the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1914. After working as a railway labourer, insurance agent, travelling salesman, manual labourer, paper-packer and stagehand, he published a collection of poetry that was quickly withdrawn by the communist regime. His best-known books include I Served the King of England, Closely Watched Trains (made into an Academy Award-winning film directed by Jiri Menzel) and Too Loud a Solitude. In 1997, he fell to his death from the fifth floor of a Prague hospital, apparently trying to feed the pigeons.