'Folks, life is beautiful! Bring on the drinks, I'm sticking around till I'm ninety! Do you hear?'
A young boy grows up in a sleepy Czech community where little changes. His raucous, mischievous Uncle Pepin came to stay with the family years ago, and never left. But the outside world is encroaching on their close-knit town - first in the shape of German occupiers, and then with the new Communist order. Elegiac and moving, Bohumil Hrabal's gem-like portrayal of the passing of an age is filled with wit, life and tenderness.
'What is unique about Hrabal is his capacity for joy' Milan Kundera
'Even in a town where nothing happens, Hrabal's meticulous and exuberant fascination with the human voice insists that, as long as there's still breath in a body, life is endlessly eventful' Independent
'As I crammed the cream horn voraciously into my mouth, at once I heard Francin's voice saying that no decent woman would eat a cream puff like that'
In a quiet town where not much happens, Maryska, the flamboyant brewer's wife, stands out. She cuts her skirt short so that she can ride her bicycle, her golden hair flying out behind her. She butchers pigs. She drinks and eats with relish. And when the garrulous ranconteur Uncle Pepin comes to visit the locals are scandalized even further, in Bohumil Hrabal's affecting, exuberant portrayal of a small central European community between the wars.
'One of the greatest European prose writers' Philip Roth
'Hrabal combines good humour and hilarity with tenderness' Observer
A classic of postwar literature, a small masterpiece of humour, humanity and heroism from one of the best Czech writers
For twenty-two-year-old Milos, bumbling apprentice at a sleepy Czech railway station, life is full of worries: his burdensome virginity, his love for the pretty conductor Masha, the scandalous goings-on in the station master's office. Beside them, the part he will come to play against the occupying Germans seems a simple affair, in Bohumil Hrabal's touching, absurd masterpiece of humour, humanity and heroism.
Closely Watched Trains, which became the award-winning Jiri Menzel film of the 'Prague Spring', is a masterpiece that fully justifies Hrabal's reputation as one of the best Czech writers of the twentieth century.
Bohumil Hrabal (1914-1997) was born and raised in Brno in what was then the Austro-Hungarian Empire. 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. He went on to become one of the most important and most admired Czech writers of the 20th century; 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. He fell to his death from the fifth floor of a Prague hospital, apparently trying to feed the pigeons.