Friday, June 15, 2012

Too Loud a Solitude and the Master Wordsmith Bohumil Hrabal

Too Loud a Solitude - It could be the title of Bohumil Hrabal's autobiography. But it's actually a wondrous novella he wrote. Hrabal wrote this masterpiece late in life, after surviving a lengthy illness. Too Loud a Solitude is, he claimed, the reason he survived. He couldn't die before writing it.

Synopsis: Hantá rescues books from the jaws of his compacting press and carries them home. (From GOODREADS)

Perhaps the synopsis from Goodreads is a good enough example of how underrated this novella is.

Bohumil Hrabal - There is much written about Hrabal. What I find the most fascinating is that he seemed quite enamoured with suicide. He wrote about it in his books and he wrote about it in letters to friends. Hrabal died falling out of a 5th story hospital window. Apparently, he was feeding pigeons on the windowsill. Also noted in his biography is that he actually lived in a 5th floor apartment. Suicides were mentioned in several of his novels---all done by characters leaping from 5th floor windows. Does life imitate art or does art imitate life? Was his death an art installation? This is the answer I'm going with. His final performance...unwritten, but just as powerful as his beautiful prose.

Many have called Hrabal the greatest writer of our time. I love his novels. My particular passion is for TOO LOUD A SOLITUDE, though. I re-read this novella once a year. It is chilling, the beauty he injected into this story of a man with a trash compactor. The story takes my breath away every single time I read it.


“My education has been so unwitting I can't quite tell which of my thoughts come from me and which from my books, but that's how I've stayed attuned to myself and the world around me for the past thirty-five years. Because when I read, I don't really read; I pop a beautiful sentence into my mouth and suck it like a fruit drop, or I sip it like a liqueur until the thought dissolves in me like alcohol, infusing brain and heart and coursing on through the veins to the root of each blood vessel.”

“And so everything I see in this world, it all moves backward and forward at the same time, like a black-smith's bellows, like everything in my press, turning into its opposite at the command of the red and green buttons, and that's what makes the world go round.”

Some other Hrabal titles to look for: Closely Watched Trains, The Death of Mr. Baltisberger, Pirouettes on a Postage Stamp, In-House Weddings, Gaps.

Hrabal's Grave
Many make the pilgrimage to Hrabal's grave in Hradištko.


Size: 5 (1/2) - Although I didn't review the book, I give it a rating of 5 1/2. It's one of my very favourite books. At under 100's staggering what Hrabal fit within its beautiful pages!


  1. It is one of my favourite books as well. I did not go to Hrabal's grave, but did make a pilgrimage to U zlatého tygra, the Prague pub that was Hrabal's hangout. In 1994, President Bill Clinton made a special trip to that pub just to meet Hrabal.

  2. This is a gorgeous book. In way its ridiculous how much time Hanta spends 'binding' the bales with old masters, considering he is going to compress them, but I guess its his way of paying homage to the literary greats