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Liiga vali üksindus (Loomingu Raamatukogu, #6-7/2020)

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Tšehhi ühe armastatuima klassiku lõbus-kurblik jutustus oma päevi vanapaberipressi taga mööda saatvast vanamehest, kes on makulatuuri saadetud raamatute najal “vastu tahtmist targaks saanud”. Ta pajatab lugusid Praha põrandaaluses maailmas toimuvast ja sellest, kuidas pressida kauneid tähendustihkeid paberipakke. Tulemuseks on üks värvikaimaid oode raamatuarmastusele ja pi Tšehhi ühe armastatuima klassiku lõbus-kurblik jutustus oma päevi vanapaberipressi taga mööda saatvast vanamehest, kes on makulatuuri saadetud raamatute najal “vastu tahtmist targaks saanud”. Ta pajatab lugusid Praha põrandaaluses maailmas toimuvast ja sellest, kuidas pressida kauneid tähendustihkeid paberipakke. Tulemuseks on üks värvikaimaid oode raamatuarmastusele ja pidurdamatu kujutlus- ja mõttevooluga täidetud üksindusele.


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Tšehhi ühe armastatuima klassiku lõbus-kurblik jutustus oma päevi vanapaberipressi taga mööda saatvast vanamehest, kes on makulatuuri saadetud raamatute najal “vastu tahtmist targaks saanud”. Ta pajatab lugusid Praha põrandaaluses maailmas toimuvast ja sellest, kuidas pressida kauneid tähendustihkeid paberipakke. Tulemuseks on üks värvikaimaid oode raamatuarmastusele ja pi Tšehhi ühe armastatuima klassiku lõbus-kurblik jutustus oma päevi vanapaberipressi taga mööda saatvast vanamehest, kes on makulatuuri saadetud raamatute najal “vastu tahtmist targaks saanud”. Ta pajatab lugusid Praha põrandaaluses maailmas toimuvast ja sellest, kuidas pressida kauneid tähendustihkeid paberipakke. Tulemuseks on üks värvikaimaid oode raamatuarmastusele ja pidurdamatu kujutlus- ja mõttevooluga täidetud üksindusele.

30 review for Liiga vali üksindus (Loomingu Raamatukogu, #6-7/2020)

  1. 4 out of 5

    Ahmad Sharabiani

    Příliš Hlučná Samota = Prilis Hlucna Samta = Too Loud a Solitude, Bohumil Hrabal Too Loud a Solitude is a short novel by Czech writer Bohumil Hrabal. Self-published in 1976 and officially in 1989. The entire story is narrated in the first person by the main character Hanta. Hanta is portrayed as a sort of recluse and hermit, albeit one with encyclopedic literary knowledge. Hanta uses metaphorical language and surreal descriptions, and much of the book is concerned with just his inner thoughts, as Příliš Hlučná Samota = Prilis Hlucna Samta = Too Loud a Solitude, Bohumil Hrabal Too Loud a Solitude is a short novel by Czech writer Bohumil Hrabal. Self-published in 1976 and officially in 1989. The entire story is narrated in the first person by the main character Hanta. Hanta is portrayed as a sort of recluse and hermit, albeit one with encyclopedic literary knowledge. Hanta uses metaphorical language and surreal descriptions, and much of the book is concerned with just his inner thoughts, as he recalls and meditates on the outlandish amounts of knowledge he has attained over the years. He brings up stories from his past and imagines the events of whimsical scenarios. He contemplates the messages of the vast numbers of intellectuals which he has studied. The novel is vibrant with symbolism. A simple but obscure plot is present, however. تاریخ نخستین خوانش: روز هجدهم ماه آگوست سال 2004میلادی عنوان: تنهایی پرهیاهو؛ اثر: بهومیل هرابال؛ مترجم: پرویز دوائی، تهران، کتاب روشن، 1383، در بیست و دو، 105ص، شابک 9645709520؛ موضوع: داستانهای نویسندگان چک - 20م مترجم: احسان لامع، مشهد، بوتیمار، 1392، در 102ص؛ اندازه 5/14در5/21س.م، شابک 9786006938134؛ مترجم: امیر علیجان پور، تهران، آوای مکتوب، 1393، در 120ص؛ شابک 9786007364079؛ داستان با این جملات آغاز می‌شود: «سی و پنج سال است که در کار کاغذ باطله هستم و این «قصه ی عاشقانه ی» من است؛ سی و پنج سال است که دارم کتاب و کاغذ باطله خمیر می‌کنم، و خود را چنان با کلمات عجین کرده‌ ام که دیگر به هیئت دانشنامه هایی درآمده ام که طی این سالها سه تُنی از آنها را خمیر کرده ام؛ سبویی هستم پر از آب زندگانی و مردگانی، که کافی ست کمی به یکسو خم شوم، تا از من، سیل افکار زیبا جاری شود؛ آموزشم چنان ناخودآگاه صورت گرفته، که نمی‌دانم کدام فکر از خودم است، و کدام از کتابهایم ناشی شده؛ اما فقط به این صورت است که توانسته ام هماهنگی ام را با خودم و جهان اطرافم در این سی و پنج سال گذشته حفظ کنم …»؛ پایان نقل تنهایی پر هیاهو؛ داستانی روانکاوانه فلسفی است، که از شخصیت «هانتا» و افکارش سخن می‌گوید؛ اما در این بین گاهی به موارد سیاسی اجتماعی نیز اشاره می‌کند؛ «هانتا» در زیرزمینی مرطوب، که انبار کاغذ باطله است، روزگار می‌گذراند، و کتابهایی را که از سوی اداره ی سانسور به آن‌جا می‌آورند را، خمیر می‌کند؛ آقای «هانتا» با خواندن آن کتاب‌ها، دنیا را به گونه‌ ای دیگر می‌بیند تاریخ بهنگام رسانی 10/06/1399هجری خورشیدی؛ ا. شربیانی

  2. 5 out of 5

    Kris

    I had been meaning to read Hrabal's classic novella for quite a while, but last night I finally picked it up. Instantly, I was transported to the world of Hantá in a crumbling Communist Prague. Hrabal combines lyrical descriptions of the pleasures - and the necessity - of reading, with surreal passages revealing Hantá's tangible interactions with the figures in his books, in a world where reading and intellectual and creative engagement are no longer valued. It is a stunningly written, very orig I had been meaning to read Hrabal's classic novella for quite a while, but last night I finally picked it up. Instantly, I was transported to the world of Hantá in a crumbling Communist Prague. Hrabal combines lyrical descriptions of the pleasures - and the necessity - of reading, with surreal passages revealing Hantá's tangible interactions with the figures in his books, in a world where reading and intellectual and creative engagement are no longer valued. It is a stunningly written, very original work in which Hrabal transcends a mere indictment of one regime, by tapping into the universal and transcendent joys of books and art, and the dangers of dehumanization that we face when we lose sight of those integral aspects of human life. Hantá works by day compacting confiscated books and papers for recycling. He toils in a basement with an ancient compacting machine, and only mice and the occasional flies (and a gypsy or two) for company. He does not keep up with the efficient pace that his boss, and his society, demand - instead, Hantá lets the papers pile up to the ceiling as he searches the deliveries for rare books to rescue or, in some cases, to send off to a ceremonial end in the middle of a bale, opened to a much loved passage, and decorated by art prints that were also designated for destruction. Hantá literally is surrounded by the ghosts of writers past. His small apartment is filled to the rafters with tons of books that he has rescued from pulping, to the point that the shelves he has built over his bed and in his bathroom present the constant risk of burying him: "The way I look at it, my life fits together beautifully: at work I have books -- and bottles and inkwells and staplers -- raining down on me through the opening in the cellar ceiling, and at home I have books above me constantly threatening to fall and kill or at least maim me. The swords of Damocles that I've hung from my bathroom and bedroom ceilings force me to make as many trips for beer at home as at work...." (26) As he works in his isolated basement, Hantá is visited by Jesus and Lao Tse Tung, who present him with radically different models for spiritual engagement on earth. As he walks through Prague, he is surrounded by the architectural ghosts of the classical world. His avocation rescuing and reading books has provided him with a unique education: "I am a jug filled with water both magic and plain; I have only to lean over and a stream of beautiful thoughts flows out of me. 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.” (6) His reading also provides Hantá with a means to escape the dismal reality of his life: "And I huddle in the lee of my paper mountain like Adam in the bushes and pick up a book, and my eyes open panic-stricken on a world other than my own, because when I start reading I'm somewhere completely different, I'm in the text, it's amazing, I have to admit I've been dreaming, dreaming in a land of great beauty, I've been in the very heart of truth." (14) Throughout the novella, Hrabal seamlessly moves back and forth between Hrabal's reveries about philosophy and books, his memories of past relationships, and his observations of the society that is literally rotting under his feet. There are long, gorgeously written passages that I am tempted to quote at length, alternating with some very disturbing images of the decay and death surrounding Hantá. In the end, Hantá's basement sanctuary cannot hide him from the forces for progress that surround him. Hrabal is known for developing central characters who seem simple, innocent, but who are more in touch with the spiritualism of life than the supposedly well adjusted, but bland, people surrounding them. Hantá comes across as a prophet, but one whom no one notices or hears. He sees the dangers of sterile efficiency as the primary goal for a society. Through him, Hrabal leaves us with the question of the value of a life stripped of intellectual and spiritual engagement, one with all rough corners smoothed away to a bland predictability and surface gloss. The book holds tremendous power and relevance for us, even reading across the span of time and space. Note that the images on the review are taken from different film adaptations of the novella. See for example http://www.tooloudasolitude.com/Too_L... and http://www.handmadepuppetdreams.com/2....

  3. 5 out of 5

    Garima

    Rare books perish in my press, under my hands, yet I am unable to stop their flow: I am nothing but a refined butcher. Books have taught me the joy of devastation. A trip down the history lane by walking through the ruins which once stood tall in their resplendence and laurels can make one hear the echoes of steadfast voices that match the rhythm of our steps and seek to become the teller of stories of an era gone by, of wars fought, won and lost; of love – both passionate and eternal. In the sa Rare books perish in my press, under my hands, yet I am unable to stop their flow: I am nothing but a refined butcher. Books have taught me the joy of devastation. A trip down the history lane by walking through the ruins which once stood tall in their resplendence and laurels can make one hear the echoes of steadfast voices that match the rhythm of our steps and seek to become the teller of stories of an era gone by, of wars fought, won and lost; of love – both passionate and eternal. In the same vein, here’s the Love story of Haňťa and here’s a Love letter to his readers. We have a tragedy here and a tragic hero but he is not alone in his anguish and obsession. We have happiness here and a hopeless romantic, but he is not alone in his love. His solitude is loud but not deafening. The shadows of his thoughts are both sad and euphoric. He’s a part of us and we are a part of him. I'm the only one on earth who knows that deep in the heart of each bale there's a wide-open Faust or Don Carlos, that here, buried beneath a mound of blood-soaked cardboard, lies a Hyperion, there, cushioned on piles of cement bags rests a Thus Spake Zarathustra; I'm the only one on earth who knows which bale has Goethe, which Schiller, which Holderlin, which Nietzsche. Adorned with Hrabal’s beautiful prose, the ballad of Haňťa belongs to a world which is surrounded by darkness both literal and symbolical wherein all sorts of wars are going on. In those wars, the biggest sin is committed towards books and our protagonist is one of the unfortunate perpetrators in suppressing the words of the literary masters. The moral contradictions of his life is enough to evoke a sense of empathy and his efforts towards mitigating the effect of irrevocable curses of humanity presents a hope for fair and harmonious existence. Lost in my dreams, I somehow cross at the traffic signals, never bumping into street lamps or people, yet moving onward, exuding fumes of beer and grime, yet smiling, because my briefcase is full of books and that very night I expect them to tell me things about myself I don't know. And there’s always so much to know. I talk very little when I want to talk about books in real life. It is better that way but I quietly tag along the written words wherever I go. If there’s a conversation about love then I think about my lovely Jane Eyre. If someone touches upon the subject of marriage then Mrs. Dalloway stands beside me with all her regrets and whims. Italo Calvino is always there on a starry night and in the moments of melancholy, the narratives created by Javier Marías and Carson McCullers come alive. At the end of the day though, solitude is what I yearn for. That’s when the real party begins which usually brings me to this one question. A question which used to hover in my mind and the answer to which I was searching for some time. An answer in the form of some printed testimony. An answer laden with certitude, beauty and truth. An answer I can use to quiet the inquisitive utterances and to actually make others see and understand in the best way possible. The question is: Why do you read? The answer for me : This little gem of a book. Read it to find and feel that tear trickling down your cheek; that smile coming across your face; that pride in recognizing the infinite grandeur of words. This book has taught me the joy of being a bibliophile.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Seemita

    Existence. Tearing Existence. Endearing Existence. Suppressed Existence. Spirited Existence. Delusional Existence. Resuscitating Existence. Multiple Existence. Solitary Existence. Existence. Overriding all the comprehensible and perplexing spaces joining the various uneven points of existence in the larger lattice of congruent existence, I have pushed the ship of my life with the ardour of a sincere helmsman, trained to always prioritize steering over stalling. But did someone tell me that the se Existence. Tearing Existence. Endearing Existence. Suppressed Existence. Spirited Existence. Delusional Existence. Resuscitating Existence. Multiple Existence. Solitary Existence. Existence. Overriding all the comprehensible and perplexing spaces joining the various uneven points of existence in the larger lattice of congruent existence, I have pushed the ship of my life with the ardour of a sincere helmsman, trained to always prioritize steering over stalling. But did someone tell me that the sea is more legendary for the turbulence it unleashes than the serenity it gifts? Perhaps that should have helped me. And Haňťa. Or maybe not. "For thirty-five years now I've been in wastepaper, and it's my love story." Haňťa is not a man you would meet on the road; you would meet him underneath it! As you heard him, our dear Haňťa has been recycling papers in his hydraulic press in a basement cellar for thirty-five years now. A failed affair, a dismantled family, no friends and a shrewd boss; you would think he was a weightless mass. But Haňťa treasured his existence. And his love-story was one I could step up and embrace as my own. He was no ordinary, ragged-shirt-cobbled-shoes-torn-hat-haggard in a reclusive, submerged workplace. He was a connoisseur; connoisseur of books! Precious and banned books, in their elegant covers, finely crafted edges and embellished spines; oh, they sent him into a tizzy, especially the words wafting from the wombs of papyruses christened by flagbearers of philosophy that he would expertly secure just before feeding them to the gurgling press. In the words of Aristotle and Sophocles, Kant and Goethe, Camus and Sartre, he dissolved his solitude to see it crystallize into priceless turquoise of redefining beauty and wisdom, galloping on whose back, he conquered thirty-five years of cold shoulders and defiling glances. Recreating a literary world within his lackadaisical real world was a symptomatic victory, a roaring flush of medals of sorts that left Haňťa insulated to the economic upheavals and social abandonments. But if forgiving was the name in distribution, the world would come last for anointment. Staying true to its dubious reputation, the outside world belched its ugly phlegm and the putrid liquid eventually quarantined Haňťa; well, almost. (view spoiler)[A new factory, running new-age, automatic and faster wastepaper recycler machines gets erected, around the corner, in the shortest time, sending Haňťa out of work almost overnight. (hide spoiler)] I am certain that Haňťa was a literary doppelgänger of Hrabal. When Hrabal finished penning this work in 1976, the politically charged environment of the erstwhile Czechoslovakia forbade him from publishing it. He went ahead nonetheless and self-published it, almost as a testament to his indomitable spirit and an ode to his feisty existence. But the next thirteen years were a tedious, exhaustive journey of moving from a suppressed voice of searing potential to an emulated voice of inspiring intellect, almost an agonizing punishment for a wise but recalcitrant writer. I suspect he lived those intermediate years, drawing strength from the books he read and the imaginations he permitted; sprinkling his reading sessions with humor and surrealism and erecting insurmountable walls of perennial refuge. There must have been excruciating periods of muffled freedom when his immediate circular cellar would have deserted him and the restorative heartbeat of his philosophical utopia may not have been audible either. (view spoiler)[I imagine this because I am a repeat offender of this literary crime. (hide spoiler)] But he continued tending to his cognitive saplings, across seasons, in all those years. And I am glad the purifying aroma of the flowers from this patient gardener’s garden finally reached us; resurrecting an existence that was truly wholesome because it respected the many fractures within.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Cecily

    This is a few weeks in the mind and life of Hant’a, in mid 1970s Prague, who has been drunkenly compacting wastepaper in a hydraulic press for 35 years, in a dark cellar infested with mice, flies, blood, and sometimes shit. Well, it is that. But it absolutely is not that at all. “Every beloved object is the center of a garden of paradise.” This is a beautiful paean to the transformative power of words on paper. About finding beauty in the dirtiest, most unlikely places. How devotion can manifest it This is a few weeks in the mind and life of Hant’a, in mid 1970s Prague, who has been drunkenly compacting wastepaper in a hydraulic press for 35 years, in a dark cellar infested with mice, flies, blood, and sometimes shit. Well, it is that. But it absolutely is not that at all. “Every beloved object is the center of a garden of paradise.” This is a beautiful paean to the transformative power of words on paper. About finding beauty in the dirtiest, most unlikely places. How devotion can manifest itself in pleasure at saving and destroying. How destruction of what one loves can become a sacramental, sacrificial art. How a person can become one with the focus of their life and passion. “I have a physical sense of myself as a bale of compacted books, the seat of a tiny pilot light of karma.” The opening pages made me deliriously drunk as they piled more and more ways to express a passionate, visceral love of books. More delirium from the disconcerting awareness that this booklover destroys far more books than he saves. He describes himself as “a refined butcher”, relishing the physical sensations of his work. “I loved the feel of paper in my fingers… to experience the palpable charm of wastepaper.” Nevertheless, through the "subterranean subtext", I read him as more priest than butcher. “When I read, I don’t really read; I pop a beautiful sentence in my mouth and sip it like a liqueur until the thought dissolves in me like alcohol, infusing brain and heart.” I was hooked from the start, as any booklover should be. Status Quo In the first half, Hant’a doggedly does his work, biding his time until retirement. Repetitively ripping books apart, putting them in the drum, pressing the green and red buttons, compressing them into bales - even if there are mice inside. His boss rails at him. He looks forward to visits from gypsy girls. He drinks. But he’s always looking out for special books, mostly for himself, but also for one or two friends. His home is heaving with them; shelves piled perilously high, even over his bed. “I hear the books above me plotting their revenge… the Sword of Damocles that I’ve hung from my bathroom and bedroom ceilings.” Hant’a reads and loves great literature, especially ancient Greek and Roman philosophers, whose ideas he applies to who and what he sees around him. He views his job as a profession requiring a classical education and ideally a degree in divinity, which seems a bit back-to-front: he has acquired such erudition by doing the job, or by not doing it. In every bale, he puts something special, “like a priest on the altar”: a book open at a beautiful passage, or a print of a great painting: “my ritual, my mass”. The press squeezes “like fingers clasping in a deeper prayer”. He relishes the secrecy, “I am both artist and audience”, while hoping someone notices and is uplifted. The circle of life is not limited to people: his press destroys books to make clean paper for another press to print new books. Progress is The End “The dreams I never dreamed came true.” One day, he visits a huge new processing plant: full of sunlight and sparkling equipment. Like a cathedral. But not his church. The future. But not his future. The happy young workers in their jolly uniforms have “no feeling for what the book might mean, no thought that somebody had to write the book… edit… design… proofread… print… bind”. Worse still, many of the books are remaindered, pulped “before a single page could be sullied by human eye, brain, or heart… Workers tearing open the boxes, taking the virgin books out of them, pulling the covers off, and tossing the naked insides on the belt”. It’s like ripping chickens apart in the slaughterhouse. Suddenly, it’s easy to see the beauty of Hant’a’s work, in his filthy cellar. He plucks a precious old book from the conveyor belt: “It shakes in my hands like a bride’s bouquet at the altar.” The visit is transformative. Hant’a wanders the city in a daze, revisiting friends and old haunts: “The clock told a useless time: I had nowhere to go, I was floating in space.” The ending was sublime. Image from the 1996 film, which I've not seen. See imdb HERE. Quotes I want to copy out the whole first chapter and large chunks of the rest. Here’s a taste from only 98 pages. • “I am a jug filled with water both magic and plain; I have only to lean over and a stream of beautiful thoughts flows out of me.” • “When my eye lands on a real book and looks past the printed word, what it sees is disembodied thoughts flying through the air, gliding on air, living off air… just as the host is and is not the blood of Christ.” • “Thousands of cobalt-colored flies… their metallic wings and bodies embroidered an immense tableau vivant made up of constantly shifting curves and splashes like the flow of paint in those gigantic Jackson Pollocks.” • “Ineffable joy and even greater woe” come from literacy. • “I am never lonely. I’m simply alone, living in my heavily populated solitude.” • “My head spinning from too loud a solitude” in the cellar. • “For we are like olives: only when we are crushed do we yield what is best in us.” From the Talmud. Related Reading Before this, there was Kafka’s In The Penal Colony (see my review HERE). After this, there was Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 (see my review HERE). And there's a real-life garbage man in Bogota who's saved 25,000 books: HERE. Hrabal writes: “Inquisitors burn books in vain. If a book has anything to say, it burns with a quiet laugh.” When Hant’a rescues a book, “I walk home like a burning house… the light of life pouring out of the fire, fire pouring out of the dying wood, hostile sorrow lingering under the ashes.” Here's a link to a 2-minute excerpt of an animated adaptation from 2007 (thanks to Diane S): HERE. Details on imdb HERE. GR Friends This book had been vaguely on my TBR, but it was a delightful day in London with Laysee, including a trip to the renowned Foyles, that meant I bought and read it. Thank you, Laysee.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Dolors

    “Literature is resistance”, the lugubrious voice of the narrator, who speaks from the sewers of our conscience, whispers in ruthless crudity. Literature keeps Hant’a alive in the suffocating cellar that he shares with filthy rodents, giant botflies and gypsy prostitutes. For thirty-five years, Hant’a has worked the jaws of his hydraulic press destroying all kind of books, lithographs and artistic imprints by trade and saving them for passion. The physical books disappear, but their essence remains “Literature is resistance”, the lugubrious voice of the narrator, who speaks from the sewers of our conscience, whispers in ruthless crudity. Literature keeps Hant’a alive in the suffocating cellar that he shares with filthy rodents, giant botflies and gypsy prostitutes. For thirty-five years, Hant’a has worked the jaws of his hydraulic press destroying all kind of books, lithographs and artistic imprints by trade and saving them for passion. The physical books disappear, but their essence remains embedded on Hant’a’s tortured mind. Literature under any totalitarian system defies oppression because it gives access to alternative realities that cannot be silenced by persecution. Those living in the underworld, tyrannized by absurd authority recover the condition of their lost humanity through words written by others. Their freedom is surrogate, for it derives from the appropriation of thoughts not originally theirs. And yet they allow them to persist, to keep on fighting, to embrace abstract fellowship from a permanent exile, to feel alive amidst an inanimate existence. Literature is interxtuality printed on a page. A multidimensional universe folded in a two-dimensional support. That is why Hant’a can maintain a dialogue with Lao-Tse and Jesus while greenish flies splatter the bloody wrappers discarded by the butcher and summon a Jackson Pollock’s painting back to life. Literature allows the marginalized to be born again and again and to endure the leaden guilt, the horrifying weakness, the shameful need for self-preservation that prevents them from remembering what the color of happiness looked like. “Every beloved object is the center of a garden of paradise.” Hant’a’s idea of paradise is a kite with a blurred text on it soaring the azure skies of a past that has become unbearable fiction. And, even though the heavens are not humane, those who hear the quiet ascension of words rising up from the pages they caress with their eyes won’t ever feel abandoned. The chirping of voices in their minds will be too loud for them to be lonely and instead, when their spirits surrender to the foreboding of dark times ahead, they won’t feel the sharp edge of loneliness piercing their precious memories; they will bask in the solitude that grants them painless access to bygone lives and incandescent loves that were extinguished a long time ago. The real world might be washed out, but the memories, branded in incandescent ink, will write and rewrite their life stories and make them blow in the winter winds. So for now, I am winter.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Gaurav

    “Whosoever is delighted in solitude is either a wild beast or a god.” ~ Aristotle And all is lost now but what have I lost for what I really had to lose. Darkness is clouding over me the time has come weariness is taking over me, there were times when mind and body used to act in unison. The child has long gone now Childishness is also going now waiting for the eternal plunge. And I see there is life taking birth again somewhere the eternal place where the fates of dusk and dawn get exchange. The Others say an exc “Whosoever is delighted in solitude is either a wild beast or a god.” ~ Aristotle And all is lost now but what have I lost for what I really had to lose. Darkness is clouding over me the time has come weariness is taking over me, there were times when mind and body used to act in unison. The child has long gone now Childishness is also going now waiting for the eternal plunge. And I see there is life taking birth again somewhere the eternal place where the fates of dusk and dawn get exchange. The Others say an exceptional life have I lived to say the least realized a lot what many could not but what really I attained for what really was there to be attained. Memories of childhood clouding over my head, some of which I really want to relive but how I could not see, what I see people whom I know are falling apart even their distant memories seem to be so far. So many people here around me but still I feel alone as if standing amidst crowd searching for someone known. And stalking the people one by one still I find none. And no respite come to me since even my memories are about to get free. So many years have passed I may have lived enough but not enough to understand absurdity of life. I am still the troubled soul whom even after so many years there is nothing which may console. For what is there to console the absurdness of life what one should brace and others say it's a dying soul but sometimes I feel otherwise as it's about to rise above the epitome of life. Are these ruminations not futile for what is there to rise and fall. The anxious mind searches for distractions which may keep it enthrall. And perhaps that's what we may live for at all till we meet the eternal fall. For thirty-five years now I’ve been compacting wastepaper, and if I had it all to do over I’d do just what I’ve done for the past thirty-five years. The solitude of existence essentially implies that we are alone, literally alone. We are condemned to be free, as existentialists such as Jean-Paul Sartre used to maintain, free to do as we may please. Is it a blessing or a curse? Human beings have been haunted by this age-old question since they became aware of their consciousness, for we have been evolved into conscious beings from our cousins. Once we take birth, we are condemned to be free, of course, the preliminary ventures of life are beyond our control; however, once we become self-conscious, which we eventually do, we are condemned to be free, which essentially means to make choices. We are responsible for everything we do, therefore only we and no one is responsible for our actions. There is no inherent purpose or defined model of life which may be followed to find one’s true essence, existence precedes essence as put by Sartre. It gives rise to an absurd situation that may provide us the anguish of freedom as an infinite choice may there for us. Life as we know is inherently meaningless, however, it is the realization of that absurd situation that enables us to realize our true existence as put by Albert Camus. But the inherent lack of meaning of life perhaps gives rise to human suffering, the unbelievable burden of responsibility which a free man bear keeps him in a constant flux of anguish. So do we need to explore as many options as we could? More often than not, we often find refuse in sticking to a few options in the pursuit of money to propel our livelihood. But we are unable to get free from this feeling of restlessness which essentially manifests into existential anxiety, anxiety to look for some meaning, some reference to hold onto, which might free us from this anguish even if that means an inauthentic existence. Solitude may be bliss as when we are with ourselves, we may contemplate our lives, our choices, and thereby realizing our true and authentic existence. Writing may also be a kind of solitude to reach our inner abyss as Kafka used to say, to render the tumult and turbulence one might be going through while sometimes words are deftly used to concoct an escapade which may indirectly covey one’s thoughts. A solitude that may be deep, dark, and calm like death could be an enriching for one to experience that all is one and one is all. However, mankind can’t simply cut off with the outer world, since we need to define our boundaries in the outer physical world, to survive through mundane happenings of life with bouts of solitude interspersed among them. As we are social beings, there is a need -‘others’ to see ourselves through their eyes in search of happiness which may essentially be inauthentic and shallow. In the background of this constant struggle between living our selves and behaving as per our ‘social’ norms, there lies utter loneliness like an abyss, a void. Literature may provide us the necessary refuge, the distraction, the medium we need to save ourselves from getting mad. For, it may act as a tool, a man always looks for, to get away from his inner tumult, it might provide the balmy, the soothing effect, even if it is illusionary, we need to brave the horrors of our existential solitude. The literature has got the ability to withstand the horrific acts of humanity, it may act as a mirror to us, which might reflect our inner-selves to us, however, more often than not, humanity is so shameless that it doesn't get ashamed even after looking into such mirror, as Hegel said-The only thing we learn from history is that we learn nothing from history. Yet it is the black hole we need, which gives rise to life, which absorbs all our insolence, our despotism, abuse, exploits, perversions, and persistently reflects only the condensed consciousness of those who care for humanity-a sort of caring and nurturing magic of existence. Haňtá has been compacting trash for thirty-five years. Every evening he rescues books from the jaws of his hydraulic press, carries them home, and fills his house with them. He has created a universe of his own embedded in our physical world. He takes refuge from his mundane, repugnant, inauthentic existence into his little universe built upon literature. The universe of Haňtá is strange, he breathes words, eats pages and lives with Hegel, Goethe, Leibniz, Sartre, Cezannes, Kant, Schopenhauer and others from the realm of literature and art in a microcosm, hanging in a delicate balance of being and nothingness through a dirty cellar, witnessing to the struggle of mice of different colors from the underground sewers. The tyrannical weight of hydraulic press destroys pages and books by pressing them into destruction, however, it could not demolish the wisdom of those pages as indestructibility of words survives through the horror of the press to enlighten the solitude of existence of the narrator. The universe of Haňtá may seem to be insignificant, suspended through a thin thread from the hell of nothingness, but it’s the paradise created by the narrator for himself wherein he may have a one-to-one conversation with Jesus and Lao Tze, and which fulfills the abyss of loneliness of his existence. Such a world could be a paradise for any book lover, some of us may even envy of Haňtá, for there could be infinite possibilities in his world, a kind of multiverse having parallel universes existing simultaneously on the space-time continuum, wherein one move to and fro in time as if it’s one of the dimensions with literature providing the force of gravity which may transcend universes and times. A world which provides the weak, downtrodden to realize his true essence, to overcome his loneliness of existence through bearing the unbearable responsibility of being free, absolutely free; to realize the true, authentic existence of himself. The novella in a way depicts the totalitarian political regime of Czechoslovakia during the life of Bohumil Hrabal or any such regime for that matter since literature has to breathe the air of oppression, tyranny, abuse, and persecution in such a nether world. However, it is the resilience of the literature which enables it to survive the horror of inhumane acts we have executed throughout our abominable history, to come out in the light of the resurrection and to breathe in the air of perseverance, and that’s how the greatest literature has survived, perfectly complementing the human spirit of feisty existence in this inhumane world. This is the first time I got a chance to dip my literary senses into the world of Brabal and I find it quite enriching and delightful to hear out Bohumil Hrabal's cry for humanism amidst our indifferent world. Neither the heavens are humane nor is life above or below- or within me. 4/5 *edited on 05.07.2020

  8. 5 out of 5

    Florencia

    Not until we're totally crushed do we show what we are made of. (96) This is a book whose length can be quite deceiving. Nonetheless, this novella has the predictable ability of leading the path towards something rather extraordinary: a bibliophile's sanctuary. This was a difficult book to rate. At first, it was a solid four-star book. But I chose to overlook the few passages that did not captivate me entirely and made me feel somewhat lost at times (yes, the more I think about it, the more I writ Not until we're totally crushed do we show what we are made of. (96) This is a book whose length can be quite deceiving. Nonetheless, this novella has the predictable ability of leading the path towards something rather extraordinary: a bibliophile's sanctuary. This was a difficult book to rate. At first, it was a solid four-star book. But I chose to overlook the few passages that did not captivate me entirely and made me feel somewhat lost at times (yes, the more I think about it, the more I write about it and absorb its content, the more I like it). I tend to blame myself, anyway. Haňťa, the narrator, would understand. 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. (6) For thirty-five years, Haňťa has been working in a basement, compacting wastepaper and books proscribed by the current regime. Other than the company of some fighting mice and some gypsies, he is mostly alone in his sacred cellar. A place where he became a refined butcher, where he mastered the art of destruction, where he learnt the joy of devastation. However, he cannot destroy everything that arrives to his cellar. So he puts some books in his briefcase and takes them to his house, a place already filled with towers of books that may kill him at the slightest sneeze. ...when I start reading, I'm somewhere completely different, I'm in the text, it's amazing, I have to admit I've been dreaming, dreaming in a land of great beauty, I've been in the very heart of truth. Ten times a day, every day, I wonder at having wandered so far, and then, alienated from myself, a stranger to myself, I go home, walking the streets silently and in deep meditation, passing trams and cars and pedestrians in a cloud of books, the books I found that day and am carrying home in my briefcase. (11) And that is all I can say about this book filled with symbolism flowing with different rhythms, like the unpredictable behavior of the sea. This sequence of thoughts of an old man that chose, all by himself, how his love story was going to end. Poignant thoughts that left an indelible imprint in me. Evocative lines that echo his past, his benevolent present, the desperate sense of resignation of his future. His childhood, his loved ones, his doubts, his humorous remarks that assist you when despair is too much to bear, his visions, his simple way of life, his celebration to the essence of ideas that prevail over time and defy any living soul, his impressions on a world which absurdity goes beyond imagination. No, the heavens are not humane, nor is any man with a head on his shoulders. (35) And his loss. The tragedy of being violently separated from everything that gave him joy. The sum and substance of his existence. After having the pleasure of tasting such elusive elixir, one cannot help but to immerse in profound meditations. Frozen. The contradiction between a motionless body and a restlessly working mind. But Haňťa knew. He always knew. Blinded—momentarily—by the sun of things to come, Haňťa, the rescuer of defenseless books, the one with a loud solitude far away from any lonely thought, the one with the pleasure of listening to the everlasting tune of thousands of books, always knew what to do. The blissful quietness of having no regrets. 'For we are like olives: only when we are crushed do we yield what is best in us.' (18) Hrabal, Haňťa. Anyone of us. Anyone in love with literature, with ideas in the form of a book. Solitude brings to me these walls made of silence and dreams. And it is just us. This space is for us. The book and me. I hear my voice in my mind, repeating every word, processing every idea, savoring every sound. For most of Hrabal's lines are music, and I listened to it dazzled, bewildered like a child in front of a magic pipe. A melody that ignites imagination and creates an unforgettable sense of belonging. The melody of those books to which we hold onto so dearly. The melody I will be always listening to, even when surrounded by, sometimes, too silent a solitude. En una secuencia de pensamientos similar a la de esta obra, termino rememorando libros pasados, escritores que me aliviaron, personajes que me acompañaron. Líneas que, desde una inicial soledad nada ruidosa, me abrieron al mundo. Una soledad que terminó poblada con todas las voces de ese mundo. Voces que calman. Voces que perturban. Palabras que no me dejan y que las repito para que nunca me dejen. Así, saboreando cada término, como si fuera el último. Aferrándome a cada sonido, como si fuera mío. Deleitándome con la similitud del sentimiento sin tener en cuenta el tiempo. Tiempo que pasa. Tiempo que ahoga. Tiempo que sana, de vez en cuando. Termino con el libro sobre mí. Con la mente más inquieta que nunca, embarcada en una oda a esa literatura trascendental que llegó acá; desafiante, segura. Deseosa de miradas nuevas. Creadora de suspiros que evocan eternidad. Mis disculpas a las personas de habla inglesa que a veces se dan una vuelta por este sur olvidado. Pero, después de leer esta conmovedora novela corta de Hrabal, ¿cómo no culminar esta marea de palabras sin sentido, abrazada a mi idioma? Enamorados perpetuos del lenguaje. Sus palabras. Sus sonidos. Sus significados. Las historias que construyen. Las emociones que transmiten. El contenido sobre la forma. La escritura sobre la tapa. Coleccionistas de libros, de recuerdos, de vidas ajenas. Vidas ajenas, para entender la propia. Entender, en las cantidades que la existencia misma permite. Todo aquello que provoca sonido y que hace de la soledad, algo menos envolvente. Dec 6, 15 * Also on my blog. ** No, it wasn't what I expected, but I loved it anyway.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Kalliope

    How to write about a book that deals with compression when I am reading it thanks to dispersed and ephemeral distinctions? For if Hrabal has written a magic and allegorical story of the character Hantá who dedicates his life to compressing large volumes of discarded books into still voluminous bales of paper, I am reading a story which as if by magic emerges section by section on my screen acquiring in this act an additional allegorical layer. For Hantá realizes that compression does away with di How to write about a book that deals with compression when I am reading it thanks to dispersed and ephemeral distinctions? For if Hrabal has written a magic and allegorical story of the character Hantá who dedicates his life to compressing large volumes of discarded books into still voluminous bales of paper, I am reading a story which as if by magic emerges section by section on my screen acquiring in this act an additional allegorical layer. For Hantá realizes that compression does away with differences and when censorship, which is sharp black and white, coalesces matter into colorless grey then thought and text are buried in indifferent bundles. He finds his stories on paper, on trees pressed into sheets of dried paste, all stories of constricted feelings. These are tales of confined political opinions in a decadent but still powerful totalitarian setting; narratives of repressed human liberties that try to breath through flying paper kites. And these come to me in a different world. I am dealing with them on a screen on which microcapsules, charged positively for the white or negatively for the black, arrange themselves creating the distinct shapes of letters, of words, sentences and thoughts. And every time I press the button these particles return to their amorphous sea and reemerge in a new combination. Mine is the universe of poles and discrete particles and it is from this stock of specks that the tale of an estranged world and life emerges. And this is the magic of representation. The vehicle can conjure up its opposite and offer a bewitching text which can move my heart and imagination and make me feel a solitude which, thanks to its beauty, is however not confining and certainly not too loud.

  10. 5 out of 5

    BlackOxford

    Socialism Remaindered Was Hrabal the Studs Terkel of Moravia? He and Terkel were more or less contemporaries. From similarly humble backgrounds, they both got law degrees. Both were blacklisted and censored for questionable patriotism. Both were famed raconteurs. Most importantly, both concerned themselves mainly with working people and their culture. The difference of course is that Terkel, in his Working in particular, asks people about how their jobs gave positive meaning to their lives. Hraba Socialism Remaindered Was Hrabal the Studs Terkel of Moravia? He and Terkel were more or less contemporaries. From similarly humble backgrounds, they both got law degrees. Both were blacklisted and censored for questionable patriotism. Both were famed raconteurs. Most importantly, both concerned themselves mainly with working people and their culture. The difference of course is that Terkel, in his Working in particular, asks people about how their jobs gave positive meaning to their lives. Hrabal inquires more about how the roles people play are always ambiguously productive and destructive. For him, there is something of the symbolic and cosmic rather than the personal in each character. Perhaps this is the key to the difference in American and European moral sensibilities. Too Loud a Solitude starts like one of Terkel's case studies, a first person account of a man dedicated for thirty-five to the waste paper compaction business. Well not quite. None of Terkel's subjects ever said anything like "If a book has anything to say, it burns with a quiet laugh, because any book worth its salt points up and out of itself." This working stiff knows something about iconography and semiotics. And not just about the books. Hrabal's characters themselves are like icons pointing beyond their immediate experiences: "When my eye lands on a real book and looks past the printed word, what it sees is disembodied thoughts flying through the air, gliding on air, living off air, returning to air, because in the end everything is air, just as the host is and is not the blood of Christ." No ordinary sanitary engineer then in his poetic vision and singular appreciation of the doctrine of transubstatiation. The books in question, the primary raw material involved in the protagonist's production/destruction, are not allowed to become idols that inhibit their own transcendence. They possess a dialectical character for Hrabal as they bring both "ineffable joy and even greater woe." The protagonist, Hant'a, reinforces this realism; he is gnostic as well as Hegelian: "The heavens are not humane," he says, and "books have shown me the joy of devastation." Books are the centre of his existence, but they are nonetheless tainted and therefore not to be worshipped as divine. I manage a small academic library, so I recognise the syndrome Hant'a demonstrates. He is constantly distracted from his duty to crush the books by the irresistible temptation to read the damn things. Not an efficient trait in either a librarian or a book compactor. The equivalent of a doctor's emotional involvement with her patient. Frequently dangerous. Always frowned upon. His addiction is controllable to the extent that he does fulfill his duties, if on occasion only barely. But reading of the condemned books is only the entry level drug for Hant'a. Hard core addiction is bringing the space-eating things home. They quickly take over your life. And taking up all available house-space is only the half of it. The threat of death by book-avalanche is constant. As it is, Hant'a had already shrunk by a good four inches under the compressive weight of the books in his bedroom. The books are not merely a monkey on his back, they constitute the world he inhabits and that inhabits him. Aside from a distinct preference for Schiller and Goethe, Hant'a's workaday world is not unlike many of Terkel's subjects. He's over-qualified for the job of pressing first the green button and then the red button; with a nag for a boss; and he drinks too much beer at lunch, and for that matter even on the job. By no standard can he be considered passionate or even interested in his job except for the unauthorised side-benefits. The job itself is irrelevant to Hant'a's identity, just as is his participation in a socialist state. Hant’a’s fear of technological redundancy is, however, as real as that of one of Terkel's subjects in capitalist America. Ever since a gigantic new machine was installed in a neighbouring town, he knows his days in book-compacting are numbered. In fact he looks forward to retirement. But he desperately wants to bring his now surplus compactor home with him since he's not sure he can do without the daily routine of waste paper disposal. He's not worried about income in retirement, however, and certainly not the loss of social routine. The problem is where to source a reliable flow of good books! Not Terkel then. Postscript: just to demonstrate that truth is stranger than fiction, this little news piece from Turkey showed up in my ‘feed’: http://forreadingaddicts.co.uk/news/t...

  11. 4 out of 5

    Cheryl

    "Each of us had a decent home library of books we'd happened to rescue, and each of us read those books in the blissful hope of making a change in his life." What if ideas no longer had permanence? What happens when beautiful, psychedelic sentences are replaced with harebrained dialogue? What would you do, when there you are, stuck in no-man's land, without an electronic device or internet connection, and there are no physical books to keep you stimulated? What happens when you can't escape y "Each of us had a decent home library of books we'd happened to rescue, and each of us read those books in the blissful hope of making a change in his life." What if ideas no longer had permanence? What happens when beautiful, psychedelic sentences are replaced with harebrained dialogue? What would you do, when there you are, stuck in no-man's land, without an electronic device or internet connection, and there are no physical books to keep you stimulated? What happens when you can't escape your world to suddenly find yourself in a distant land, surrounded by emotional truth and beauty and culture? When I start reading I'm somewhere completely different, I'm in the text, it's amazing. I have to admit I've been dreaming, dreaming in a land of great beauty, I've been in the very heart of truth. After reading this beloved Czech classic, I sat in my home library for hours, just to feel the magic of my books, to embrace the warmth they exude, for books mean so much more than words on a page. Maybe this is why it was difficult to write a review for this book. Still, I knew I had to write one; if only as a homage to the printed word. And yet I feel guilty, as though I owe my narrator, Hanta, an apology for reading this on my Kindle (of all the books to read on the electronic device, I chose this one). When my eye lands on a real book and looks past the printed word, what it sees is disembodied thoughts flying through air, gliding on air, living off air, returning to air, because in the end everything is air. Here, melancholy brews and solitude reigns. But it is the kind of solitude you feel from someplace deep and unknown, the unexplainable comfort you have when you pick up a good book and don't want to be distracted by anything that will take you from within the text: 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 liquer until the thought dissolves in me like alcohol. Hanta is a peculiar narrator; a hermit and lover of rare books and intellectual meanderings. He is a solitude who is not lonely. I'm simply alone, living in my heavily populated solitude, a harum-scorum of infinity and eternity. It wasn't hard to relate to the idiosyncratic Hanta, this nonconformist who spent thirty-five years (this he will tell you repeatedly) compacting wastepaper. And by wastepaper, I do mean "Paul Gauguin's Bonjour M. Gauguin". Who cares if his boss despised him, and his peers made fun of him? Hanta surely didn't, because he lived beautifully: My life fits together beautifully: at work I have books--and bottles and inkwells and staplers--raining down on me through the opening in the cellar ceiling, and at home I have books above me constantly threatening to fall and kill or at least maim me. Bohumil Hrabal was a poet and a member of an underground writing group. When troops from the Warsaw Pact invaded Czechoslovakia, he was banned from publishing. No wonder why his prose is such beautiful melancholy, and his narrator a man skeptical of the world and protective of the printed word. Hrabal writes with political subtleties and symbolism that makes you want to applaud a work which stands for so much more than Hanta. This stream of consciousness narrative is one I don't usually love, and yet it fits this narrative. This book isn't for everyone, I don't think, but it is one that you savor for all of its delicious delicacies and thematic undertones that whisper: protect the printed word, protect your intellectual freedom. Perhaps Bohumil Hrabal also knew the sound of loud solitude: Suddenly one day I felt beautiful and holy for having had the courage to hold on to my sanity after all I'd seen and been through, body and soul, in too loud a solitude.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Mariel

    I can be by myself because I'm never lonely, I'm simply alone, living in my heavily populated solitude, a harum-scarum of infinity and eternity, and Infinity and Eternity seem to take a liking to the likes of me." Haòtá of Too Loud a Solitude would be friends with me if he were on goodreads. He would so! So what if I haven't read Hegel or Kant? So what if I could only quote from Terry Pratchett (a wise man in his own write)? The books are his whole life and he talks about them as if nothing would I can be by myself because I'm never lonely, I'm simply alone, living in my heavily populated solitude, a harum-scarum of infinity and eternity, and Infinity and Eternity seem to take a liking to the likes of me." Haòtá of Too Loud a Solitude would be friends with me if he were on goodreads. He would so! So what if I haven't read Hegel or Kant? So what if I could only quote from Terry Pratchett (a wise man in his own write)? The books are his whole life and he talks about them as if nothing would stand in his way if there were a two-way mirror between himself and the innermost face behind the face of the books. They would have forever to get to know each other. I envy Haòtá the way the words live on his tongue as if they could be uttered in the moment of need to bring light. I wonder if I did read any philosophers would they be of any comfort to me too. I tell myself stories as if I could step out of reality and into the one I'm creating inside. If Haòtá were on goodreads I would look at the computer screen (okay, I've already admitted that I use an ipod touch screen for 98.9% of my goodreading so there's no point in lying here now) and it would be like there was a window to look through between us. Books are real! Books matter and books are everything if you're one of us. It hurts Haòtá to compact the scarecrow wanting its brain of ink sentences, and the lion with its if I only had courage you can't judge a book by its cover and the tin man with its heart made of paper glued to binding that holds everything together with an indestructible spine. Can they become something else, something better, and have meaning when they are killed? Haòtá might be one of those drunk book reviewers on goodreads, though. He has to have beer to read. I wondered if he drank so much to be like me. I don't think I would ever need to do that to write a review either. I would just throw up in the toilet when I remembered what I admitted to the morning after. Haòtá's grandfathers and their fathers saw faeries at their elbows bar side, and Haòtá Jesus and Lao-tze as the ebb and flow in the pool he's face down in. The sword of Damascus hangs over his head every night. He sleeps beneath tons of books. Their weight could be that of your baby reminding you that you have to get up in the morning, or the ghost cat or old person who steals your vital energy through your breath. Six feet under and as high as cloud nine. Names theirs and do you know what you know or do you know what they know. If you were an actor and went to their acting school you wouldn't remember if you ever had natural talent. Remember your lines! I know that it hurt me when he sacrificed priceless whole libraries to be sent by train for some low money amount that I don't remember because the only European money I've held are Euros and Hungarian currency. Anyway, it's peanuts like Canadian couch coins. Hurts! His most precious favorites make like a library and book for the hydraulic press. Entire print runs bite the callous hands of children before his eyes. No one will ever love them and he cannot save them all. If he were goodreads friends with me he might not want to save my favorites. You know when goodreads separated from amazon? I rescued one of Manny's Brigade Mondain books. Haòtá? Would you? No, he'll never sleep tonight, Mariel! He'll be up adding back all of those trashy covers to the entire well beloved French series. Book lover's guilt. It haunts me that I buy so many books that I haven't read. I still buy more. It looks like you aren't alone when you feel a responsibility for what you have loved. Would he take it as far as I do? I had a feeling while reading Too Loud a Solitude that it would not be a favorite book of mine, despite Haòtá's last vestige of humanity attachments for his favorite words that I could relate to so very much, if his love didn't become a story of its own. I would have to think about him beyond them. Somewhere in his making connections between the mice and their mice mamas subsisting in his cellar it happened. They shared it with him. I can use that. I can see that. If he were me those mice would be from Terry Prachett's Maurice and his Educated Rodents. I don't have mice! Maybe certain people on goodreads would think my birds were no better than rodents but those people would be wrong! Or they might think that my chihuahua resembles a rat in certain lights. Wrong! Only my swiss cheese rat trap memory. Sometime in 2011 I removed some of my favorites because I had some dumb idea it should be more selective. I regret that because I need all the friends I can get. So the educated rodents would love to read Haòtá's books (maybe Pork 'N' Beans would dig The Metaphysics of Morals. My favorite Kalix from Martin Millar's books is illiterate. She would eat On Tranquility of Mind). Haòtá thinks milk is disgusting and I am lactose intolerant (like him I even bring up this useless fact in book reviews from time to time). I would go with him to watch in disgust the efficient new book destroyers across town. It does not kill them to waste the paper. "It never ceased to amaze me, until suddenly one day I felt beautiful and holy for having had the courage to hold on to my sanity after all I'd seen and been through, body and soul, in too loud a solitude, and slowly I came to the realization that my work was hurtling me headlong into an infinite field of omnipotence." I'm relieved, although I am a bastard for saying this considering the way that Haòtá goes the way of his books, that someone else agonizes over this shit. I'm half way through William Faulkner's Light in August during the writing of this review and Joe Christmas has done my head in on my books and solace and the place where you can relate to others and be safe from expectations and too loud a solitude. I wish I had a philosophy. I wish I had words of solace and shit to believe in instead of just telling about make believe people and book to eyes connection. It may be too soon to tell. Maybe I'll figure it out. (Okay, I'm too damned sensitive.) I start to worry that the books don't want me either. When I was younger I liked to "collect" descriptions of people in books. I can't tell you how fucking bored it makes me when a writer trots out 'beautiful' (which is tragically all the damned time, as if ANY asshole couldn't do that same thing). 'Solitude' had a great one for one of Haòtá's girlfriends (I also loved that he envied her becoming the sort of person that other people would want to write about. I would tell you which author I think would write about me but people might laugh at me). Anyway, I liked this: "Manca had gray hair now, but she wrote it in a kind of reformatory cut, a crew cut, like an athlete with a touch of spirituality; one of her eyes was lower than the other, which gave her a distinguished look, and if she seemed to squint a little, it was not because she had bad vision but because one of her eyes had simply got stuck while staring beyond the threshold of the infinite into the very center of an equilateral triangle, into the very heart of being, or as a Catholic existentialist once put it, her defective eye symbolized the diamond's eternal blemish." Books aren't solitude if you think about people like that because you were sitting alone taking the time... If you started to think about people you met to describe them like that (it is why I used to collect those). Yeah, to take the time. Words that are yours and words that are theirs and then they are yours because you took the time. I don't know about destruction. I wasn't giving up yet. (I would get damned emotional about it. It would eat me alive. My eyes would be raccoon eyes. I would read another book and hope to feel alive again. Books will love you back!) I would have probably invented some reason to put books into that hydraulic press too. What if I had to destroy a Kawabata? The hydraulic press wants to read! Look, that's his eyes and that's his mouth and he's one of those annoying kids from elementary school that read aloud and took too long when you were already into the story. Now he is crying because the story moves him. He loves to read. He'll probably be awfully popular on goodreads. (It only took me two hours and twenty one minutes to despise and strike this one from the feed. I'm not floating, really, I'm putting it back. I understand feelings of unworthiness when it comes to vocalizing about the things you love. Why couldn't there be a hydraulic press to squeeze out one's own drippiness in? I'd put me into that. Really I would. I have book lover's guilt of a different kind but I have it and boy did I relate to this book. The key is to keep drinking! More books.)

  13. 5 out of 5

    Fionnuala

    I read this on a train so was able to continue without a break until the book was finished, and since the narrator’s world is quite compacted, such a reading felt right. The first paragraph was sublime, with sentences such as this: I am a jug filled with water both magic and plain; I have only to lean over and a stream of beautiful thoughts flows out of me. Or this one: 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 li I read this on a train so was able to continue without a break until the book was finished, and since the narrator’s world is quite compacted, such a reading felt right. The first paragraph was sublime, with sentences such as this: I am a jug filled with water both magic and plain; I have only to lean over and a stream of beautiful thoughts flows out of me. Or this one: 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. After that glorious first section, I read on swiftly, looking for more such treasures, and there were other treasures, even some unexpected ones, though none quite so delicious as those in the first paragraph.  This is an unusual book, an open critique of all fascist regimes, but done in a wonderfully oblique way; the narrator, a fairly miserable individual at first acquaintance, seems a most unlikely character to pose a threat to the regime, and yet he successfully carries out his own subtle protest against censorship for more than thirty-five years, making daring literary and artistic statements under the very noses of the authorities. In the end, it is not the authorities but progress that catches up with him. Bohumil Hrabal gives us a different view of Prague, different from any that I have read before; we are far from the Castle or the Charles Bridge; this is the view from the sewer. Whether through water, earth, air or fire, we are all destined to be be recycled.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Praj

    On a lazy summer day, at the age of 5, I made my first true friend. As I stared deeper into its face, I begged, pleaded my mother to let me be friends with this elegant thing. Even with a stubborn promise of practicing my cursive writing for an hour daily, it took my mother more than a week to be able to allow me to bring this new friendship in my life. Over the years, I have made several friends and have been at the receiving end of the love-hate relationship for decades. Some have chosen me an On a lazy summer day, at the age of 5, I made my first true friend. As I stared deeper into its face, I begged, pleaded my mother to let me be friends with this elegant thing. Even with a stubborn promise of practicing my cursive writing for an hour daily, it took my mother more than a week to be able to allow me to bring this new friendship in my life. Over the years, I have made several friends and have been at the receiving end of the love-hate relationship for decades. Some have chosen me and some I have chosen. We do not get to choose our families, so I take a bit of an extra effort in choosing my friends. Along the way, some of them have being embraced, some thrown amid a fit of rage, some ignored, some misplaced and then there have been those who have cured my reclusiveness. And, now all my dear ones, old and new, live together with great camaraderie behind the wooden door waiting to be picked up for some friendly banter. My parents gave me a loving heart, the school and streets taught me discipline, but it were the books that made me human; they bestowed me the gift of a liberated soul that harbors no prejudices and appreciates other people irrespective to their stations in life for they have innumerable stories that are yet to be heard and written. Hantá too had a story yet to be told and when those precious sentences flowed from his mouth emitting the fragrance of a freshly sucked fruit drop, copious tears ferociously rushed down my cheeks ignoring my gentle pleas as they rested on my fingertips; the green and red buttons flashing in the background. “If I knew how to write, I'd write a book about the greatest of man's joys and sorrows. It is by and from books that I've learned that the heavens are not humane, neither the heavens nor any man with a head on his shoulders— it's not that men don't wish to be humane, it just goes against common sense.” As the door of the cellar opened, through the beaming sunlight descended the prized words of Goethe, Sartre, Hegel, Lao-Tze and many more; a steady shower of erudite sentences that peeked through the crumpled sheets of paper, verses that may never see daylight again, it was as if the inhumane heavens gifted Hantá the gems of mankind for the final time as a tribute to the admirable artist. For thirty-five years, the mulish sounds of the cold metal obeying the marching orders of the green and red lights , shuddered through the dark interiors of the cellar as the radiance of education dispersed steadily in the beer-laden core of Hantá’s physicality. Hantá was a connoisseur of books for he knew to identify a Goethe from a Schiller and scout a Nietzsche reading like a Homeric prophecy. Hantá called himself a “refined butcher”. What a tragedy! A man who crushes paper for a living perceives his work as a slaughtering fest, while those who massacre guiltless lives bestow themselves with honorary badges of “humane leaders”. Those who slay libertarian expressions revel in their wreckage while those like Hantá bear the burden of the putrefying corpses. In the dense solitude following the peripheral mayhem, Hantá was a passionate audience who knew the merit of fighting for free speech, but inopportune circumstances made him experience the pleasure of wreckage, for obliteration is all he saw as his youthful illusion drowned in the Olympic beer pool. “And while the sewers of Prague provide the scene for a senseless war between two armies of rats, the cellars are headquarters for Prague's fallen angels, university-educated men who have lost a battle they never fought, yet continue to work toward a clearer image of the world.” The white mice annihilated the brown ones and then the triumphant white ones indulged in a war of their own, humiliating their own mates. The sewers of Prague were plagued by a battle that went on years to come. A city, a country, in the midst of turmoil butchering their own kin for egotistical prejudices, squalor contaminated the blissful lives smothering it with faeces of brutality and discomfiture splashing everywhere, just like those that had soiled the ribbons of Manca bringing ignominy and relinquishing her glory. Through Hantá’s empathetic words, Hrabal paints the distorted reality of his homeland (Czech Republic) that saw democracy decaying in the graves dug by the tyrannical elements of Communism. Hrabal’s country saw a melee of wars that rose through decades of inhumane treatment, bloody revolutions and ultimately liberation. For decades, Hantá regularly dug literary graves beneath the sturdy hydraulic press and his country massacred free speech and social equality. During the onset of a political spring (Prague Spring, 1968), the country exhaled in the air of emancipation as bans on travel, speech and media were lifted. Nonetheless this heaven was a temporary respite and once again the country crumbled into depths of obscurity. Heaven is far from being humane, isn't it? While the livid rats were combating for the supremacy over the sewers, Hantá was haunted by the ghosts of the deceased books, every trampled mice making Hantá lose an ounce of compassion from his soul. Why do we read books? What do we achieve from these books? Do books make us heartless or is it that we are blind to the humanity that resides within the pages of the book? Are books really that cruel? Is free speech demonic? The world is filled with idiots and these very idiots carry the traits of idiocy into the core of the tomes that are brutally ripped apart as if confiscating a disagreeable existence of life. The notion of Hrabal’s cherished words being ripped apart by political callousness and his books being treated far worse than a leper, brings excruciating pain. “I put a Metaphysics of Morals by Immanuel Kant, and the flesh flies went berserk, attacking the last bits of dried and drying blood with such gluttony that they failed to notice the drum wall crushing and compacting them, separating them into membranes and cells." In a land, at a time when guns were favored over pens, agonizing screams were audible than free speech, morality was a festering corpse and Hrabal’s books were sinners of human race. In the former sovereign Czechoslovakia (now Czech Republic), Gypsies were once privileged citizens of country that took pride in their ethnic culture. Only if, Hegel and Schopenhauer had not waged a confrontation, only if the words of Sartre and Plato had not crossed the wrong street corner, only if numerous pages were not crushed under the gigantic hydraulic press after every war; then the gorgeous gypsy girl would have been able to cook warm food for Hantá and lie down beside him in a loving embrace as Hantá happily sucked on to the fruity aromatic sentences from his books. In the mournful shower of wrinkled paper, the inhumane heavens had washed away the last lingering traces of kindness and love. “...until suddenly one day I felt beautiful and holy for having had the courage to hold on to my sanity after all I'd seen and been through, body and soul, in too loud a solitude, and slowly I came to the realization that my work was hurtling me headlong into an infinite field of omnipotence." The cat is a coward when it does not let the mice squeak. The narcissistic mind is atrocious when it exterminates words from other minds. The voices of solitude burned, its ashes flowing through Hantá’s body and soul and from Hantá’s solitary wisdom came the courage to find beauty among the crackling noises of human bones. The age of industrialization brought with it an eccentric world alienating the old loyalists. With each new compacter established, the fears of the collector becoming the collection burgeoned among heaps of wastepaper whilst mocking Sisyphus as Camus was shredded into white confetti. Paper was being recycled, so were the books and inked words, all of them recycled ushering a new era; sadly lives cannot be recycled and are forever jammed in a claustrophobic time-zone praying for a miracle like those discarded pages of a book, hoping to be saved . The man who guards the cemetery somehow values life much more than those who walk past it, for he is surrounded by the stillness of death. To me, Hantá was a not a refined butcher. Hantá was clandestine priest who eulogized the books wishing that they would bestow the gift of humanity to the merciless heavens. After all it is a love story. Yet, in love and war, commonsense is not a commonplace. Lao-tze says,"to be born is to exit and to die is to enter?" Does he mean to exit and enter the realms of humanity through commonsense and compassion? Hantá, the man who made me cry the entire night, only to befriend me the very next day, marking the beginning of a life-long friendship. Are you listening Hrabal? **[The above picture is taken from the namesake movie]

  15. 5 out of 5

    Algernon (Darth Anyan)

    If a book has anything to say, it burns with a quiet laugh, because any book worth its salt points up and out of itself. As another author whose name escapes me right now : we all live in the gutter, but some of us look up at the stars. In a hole in the ground, in the old city of Prague lives a man named H'anta. All day long he struggles with mountains of discarded paper, pressing them into square boxes of pulp, fueled by gallons of beer and visions of saints and sinners, philosophers and poets If a book has anything to say, it burns with a quiet laugh, because any book worth its salt points up and out of itself. As another author whose name escapes me right now : we all live in the gutter, but some of us look up at the stars. In a hole in the ground, in the old city of Prague lives a man named H'anta. All day long he struggles with mountains of discarded paper, pressing them into square boxes of pulp, fueled by gallons of beer and visions of saints and sinners, philosophers and poets. Every now and then, from the mountains of garbage that is thrown down the manhole of his cellar, H'anta extracts a rare and precious book or two: For thirty-five years now I've been in wastepaper, and it's my love story. I am a jug filled with water both magic and plain; I have only to lean over and a stream of beautiful thoughts flows out of me. 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. H'anta is a dimwit and a slacker in the eyes of his boss, a dirty drunkard to the straightlaced people passing him on the street, a hermit living alone in a small room filled with the thousands of volumes he salvaged from pulping during his long career: Lost in my dreams, I somehow cross at the traffic signals, never bumping into street lamps or people, yet moving onward, exuding fumes of beer and grime, yet smiling, because my briefcase is full of books and that very night I expect them to tell me things about myself I don't know. In between singing hymns to the glory of the written word and reminiscing about his youth and his lovers, H'anta tries to come to terms with a younger generation that has little use for the wisdom of the elders and for preserving the masterpieces of the past, with the backstabbing, the greed, the envy of those hungry for power ( I knew I could remove any gate or manhole cover in the city and climb straight down into the life-and-death struggle, the rat war to end all rat wars, and I knew it would end with a celebration lasting only till they could find a motive to start fighting again. ) . The barbed social commentary and the openly critical view of the socialist society being built under duress have led to the initial banning of the text in his home country, but I would argue that the story of the man who invents himself through the books he reads and of the society who discards the past and the future in order to live only in the present of instant gratification transcends borders and political colours to address the larger questions of how to make sense of the lives we live and how to break free of our solitude and reach out to touch another human being. I have a physical sense of myself as a bale of compacted books, the seat of a tiny pilot light of karma, like the flame in a gas refrigerator, an eternal flame I feed daily with the oil of my thoughts, which come from what I unwittingly read during work in the books I am now taking home in my briefcase. So I walk home like a burning house, like a burning stable, the light of life pouring out of the fire, fire pouring out of the dying wood, hostile sorrow lingering under the ashes. H'anta shares with other characters from Hrabal novels an extraordinary zest for life, a boundless capacity for joy and a wild abandon to the senses. Drunken parties, dances with village girls, a passionate affair with a gypsy woman, trains running in the backyard garden of an uncle, narrow streets in the Old Town under the moonlight are all part of the landscape through which H'anta moves in silence, observing everything but remaining closed in his carapace of solitude. The humour is often irreverent, with numerous scathological references and fascination for the morbid and the grotesque. And every beautiful moment of H'anta's recollections has its 'thorn', its often brutal shove back into the gutter : No, the heavens are not humane, nor is any man with a head on his shoulders. Like the mice that nest in the moldy paper of H'anta's cellar, an individual would get crushed in the press of an indifferent Fate, be it in the form of blood filled paper from the butchers, of Nazis deporting the carefree and innocent Gypsies, of college professors working as pest control in the sewers, of the march of Progress making the cranky press where H'anta spent 35 years of his life obsolete, replacing it with an impersonal and highly efficient modern machine that has no time and patience to browse and salvage anything from the trove of discarded dreams. In a novel filled with metaphors and symbols, two rays of hope, two avenues of contentment remain available to H'anta : - the higher plane of intellectual debate where he holds conversations with Jesus and Lao-Tze, pits Hegel against Schoppenhauer in order to arrive at the destination of Kant, clothes himself in posters of van Gogh's luminous nightscenes or Gaugain's exotic savages; "Two things fill my mind with ever new and increasing wonder — the starry firmament above me and the moral law within me," Kant (Theory of Heavens) "The highest law is love, the love that is compassion," Arthur Schoppenhauer - the original innocence of our beginnings and the nomadic/wandering nature of our spirit as illustrated in the gypsies coming in and out of H'anta's life: While we were running around with clubs in our hands and hides on our loins, the Gypsies had their own state and a social system that had been through two declines; and today's Gypsies, who have lived in Prague for only two generations, light a ritual fire wherever they work, a nomads' fire crackling only for the joy of it, a blaze of rough-hewn wood like a child's laugh, a symbol of the eternity that preceded human thought, a free fire, a gift from heaven, a living sign of the elements unnoticed by the world-weary pedestrian, a fire in the ditches of Prague warming the wanderer's eye and soul. In the end, the loss of his cosy lifestyle among lost books may prove too much for H'anta and he will turned his back on a cold, unfeeling world. The ending is maudlin and devastating on the soul, giving some substance to the theories surrounding the author's accidental death: What I saw was a large gilt upright bathtub with Seneca lying upright in it just after he had slashed the veins in his wrist, thereby proving to himself how right he was to have written that little book I so loved, On Tranquillity of Mind. An autobiographical element is easy to identify in the work. Hrabal himself worked for some years pulping recycled paper in Prague and using the time to find and read rare books. He also had seen two editions of his books sent to the thresher after being printed and prepared for distribution. Most impressive is an oblique reference to the condition of the poet in the modern world, where he is much less respected and harder to get noticed than in past centuries: "Gentlemen, I am the hangman's assistant," whereupon he left, pensive and miserable. Perhaps he was the one who, last year at the Holesovice slaughterhouse, put a knife to my neck, shoved me into a corner, took out a slip of paper, and read me a poem celebrating the beauties of the countryside at Rícany, then apologized, saying he hadn't found any other way of getting people to listen to his verse. Hrabal is not the only modern poet who turned to prose in order to get his work noticed. Last week I read James Sallis, Michael Ondaatje has been one of my top authors for years, Italo Calvino I view also as a poet disguised as a novelist, and the list could probably go on and on. Back to Hrabal and this half novella, half tragi-comic farce: I wish I had Ian Graye talent to improvise free verse, but I don't so I will close with one extracted directly from a book that I would quote from the first to the last line, if it were possible: Three youngsters in a corner are playing a guitar and singing quietly, everything that lives must have its enemy, the melancholy of a world eternally under self-rejuvenation, that beautiful Hellenic model and goal, classical gymnasia and humanist universities. But in the sewers of Prague two armies of rats are locked in a life-and-death struggle. The right leg was a little frayed at the knee. Turquoise-blue and velvet-violet skirts. Helpless hands like clipped wings. An enormous side of beef hanging from the hook of a provincial butcher's. I hear toilets flushing.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Margaret

    4.5/5 I chose to read Bohumil Hrabal’s Too Loud a Solitude because I had loved Rabih Almeddine’s An Unnecessary Woman, and two of my Goodreads friends (thanks Dolors and Jibran) thought that if I liked that book, I surely would appreciate Hrabal’s short novel as well. As it turned out, they were both exactly right. Imagine opening up a book and finding these words spoken by Hant’a, the protagonist, tucked inside the very first paragraph: My education has been so unwitting I can’t quite tell which 4.5/5 I chose to read Bohumil Hrabal’s Too Loud a Solitude because I had loved Rabih Almeddine’s An Unnecessary Woman, and two of my Goodreads friends (thanks Dolors and Jibran) thought that if I liked that book, I surely would appreciate Hrabal’s short novel as well. As it turned out, they were both exactly right. Imagine opening up a book and finding these words spoken by Hant’a, the protagonist, tucked inside the very first paragraph: 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 that quickly I became hooked on this book. Hant’a, has, for thirty-five years,been working alone in a basement (with the company of colonies of mice) running a compacting press and bundling wastepaper, readying those bundles to be sent to their end in an acidic bath. He estimates he processes two tons of books a month, and his view of books differs radically from that of the powers that have categorized books as wastepaper. He sees the books and also sees what’s in them. He rescues some of them for his apartment; his entire apartment is so over-stuffed with books that he worries that an earthquake would cause all those books to bury him alive. He rescues others for friends. And those he does compact, he reads first, soaking up the human knowledge, moving it from inside the books to inside himself. Books are both things and the thoughts inside them; they can be burned, but human knowledge cannot be so easily destroyed: When my eye lands on a real book and looks past the printed word, what it sees is disembodied thoughts flying through the air, gliding on air, living off air, just as the host is and is not the blood of Christ. After thirty-five years, Hant’a’s run as destroyer of the bodies of books and savior of the souls of books comes to a halt. He is sent by his employer to look at a plant using a new compactor. There, young men toss everything in without a thought as to what is inside. The work is completed quickly and cleanly. These young employees finish the work of crushing books into pulp with cheerful and mindless energy. It is only a matter of time when Hant’a’s boss will bring them and their new and better machine in to take Hant’a’s place. But while those newly hired workers will destroy the books quickly and cleanly, they cannot harm not the souls of books, which will continue to survive in the Hant’a’s mind, in the minds of all the readers of the world. The ideas in the books possess Hant’a and his world entirely; in this slender novel Hrabal makes those ideas come to life, sometimes literally. Jesus and Lao Tsu come visit Hant’a in his basement workplace. They offer him their different versions of solace. He sees the stories of the past when he walks through the streets of Prague. Hant’a may be a little bit eccentric, but the ideas that were once on the pages of books now permeate his mind and spirit. The book was first published in 1976 while Czechoslovakia was still under strict censorship by the Communists, who invaded in 1968 to end a period of Czechoslovakian liberalization. It would seem this book is then a reaction against Communist imposed censorship. Indeed, Hrabal self-published the book; it was not “approved” by the government until more than a decade later. Even though it seems all may be lost when the new regime takes over Hant’a’s job, as it must have seemed as Communist tanks invaded Prague in the summer of 1968, the ideas and viewpoints inscribed in the books in the libraries of the world survive even this attempt to censor and limit. Hrabal’s novel is a powerful statement proclaiming the inability of tyranny to destroy ideas.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Laysee

    "For thirty-five years now I've been in wastepaper, and it's my love story." These words launched an ineffably beautiful story about one man's love for the world of books. I believe "Too Loud A Solitude" will speak to anyone who lives in words and cannot imagine a life apart from books. The narrator, Hanta, worked at a hydraulic press as a paper packer. He salvaged rare books from the piles of old papers condemned to being compacted. It was a dream job for its wide doorway to truth and beauty. Ha "For thirty-five years now I've been in wastepaper, and it's my love story." These words launched an ineffably beautiful story about one man's love for the world of books. I believe "Too Loud A Solitude" will speak to anyone who lives in words and cannot imagine a life apart from books. The narrator, Hanta, worked at a hydraulic press as a paper packer. He salvaged rare books from the piles of old papers condemned to being compacted. It was a dream job for its wide doorway to truth and beauty. Hanta likened himself to a filled water jug. When tipped, "a stream of beautiful thoughts flows out of me." The description of Hanta rescuing a book, sniffing its print, and placing it like a treasure in a crate of splendid things moved me. To Hanta, crushing books was equivalent to crushing human skeletons. It was death of a kind. This reverence for books was most touching. The joy of and transport in reading was beautifully captured. So was the companionship that books offer. Hanta said, "I can be by myself because I'm never lonely, I'm simply alone, living in my heavily populated solitude, a harum-scarum of infinity and eternity, and Infinity and Eternity seem to take a liking to the likes of me." I get this and imagine many of my GR friends can identify with Hanta’s experience too. The prose was gorgeous and I wanted to quote copiously the beautiful lines I read. There was humor too and I had many laughs (e.g., the episode with the mice in his cellar that shared his taste for fine literature). I felt tenderly toward Hanta who struck me as immensely lonely and in need of company beyond that afforded by the bales of books he read voraciously. One haunting scene was when he buried his uncle, scrapping up his remains bit by bit. I also respected him greatly for his love of books, his hard earned knowledge scrapped together literally from literature culled from the odious waste - what he termed being educated "unwittingly". I shared his distress when he could not stop whole libraries from being destroyed. The advent of the giant press meant the demise of small paper compacting jobs like Hanta's. A new generation of employees was ready to toss books into the recycling monsters with nary a thought for what would be lost. How would Hanta live when he no longer had a chance to rescue books from being pulped? The answer was the one I feared. This is my first book by my first Czech writer. What a grand small book! I cannot recommend it highly enough.

  18. 5 out of 5

    knig

    Bohumil Hrabal may have been dear to god (its what his name means), but certainly not to the Czech communist party, who forced him to recant ‘his evil capitalist ways’ in 1975 and still they didn’t publish him. ‘Too Loud a Solitude’ circulated in the underground press only. And still, the dissidents called him a ‘whore’. But Hrabal, I’m sure, wrote this gem with every hope for official publication. It is subversive, and perverse, but in the most ephemeral, double entendre, understated way. Blink Bohumil Hrabal may have been dear to god (its what his name means), but certainly not to the Czech communist party, who forced him to recant ‘his evil capitalist ways’ in 1975 and still they didn’t publish him. ‘Too Loud a Solitude’ circulated in the underground press only. And still, the dissidents called him a ‘whore’. But Hrabal, I’m sure, wrote this gem with every hope for official publication. It is subversive, and perverse, but in the most ephemeral, double entendre, understated way. Blink, and you might miss the suave irony. Most probably what he thought the dim witted censors would do. This book is simply gorgeous. Hant’a is the proverbial ‘Idiot’, compacting rare books for recycling, alone in a dingy cellar with his hydraulic press and, well: mice, flesh eating flies, rotten sewage and a keg of beer, perpetually sizzled and in vino veritas, thus enlightened. Over his thirty five year career, he rescues notable books and whilst acquiring an erratic self administered education, also hoards up stocks of them at home: to the point where his bathroom is chockers and there is only a smallish space left for him to squat over his toilet seat: one wrong move, and a ton of books will squash him like a fly as he’s sitting doing his business. So far, one nil in favour of Hrabal, and against the reds. And yet. Why exactly is Hant’a hoarding: well, so that, when he retires, he can buy a home hydraulic press and make his own recycled bales from them: the most beautiful bales in the world. Superficially, the score evens out now in favour of possible publication. Hant’a is surely an idiot par excellance. And yet. Submerged deep in the belly of the narrative, Hant’a innocently speculates that ‘inquisitors burn books in vain. If a book has anything to say, it burns with a quiet laugh, because any book worth its salt points up and out of itself’. And thus this deliberate, covert, slow dance of political thrust, parry and counter thrust continues, so that meaning is steeped within meaning like a Russian Matrioshka. Hrabal’s language is beautiful, haunting, poetic: Hanta doesn’t read, he pops a beautiful sentence in his mouth and sucks it like a fruit drop, or he sips it like a liqueur until the thought dissolves in him like alcohol. The atmosphere is redolent of barely suppressed surrealism, allegory and folklorish overtones. Quiet ghosts of literary giants from the past surface briefly and silently to admonish Hant’a, the Reds: perhaps us? The narrative flows like magic: beautiful, sonorific, mesmerising and decadent. Simply perfection.

  19. 4 out of 5

    [P]

    This is not a love story. It was once, but my relationship with books has soured. Reading is, these days, like swallowing a cheap broth, one that contains the occasional scrap of meat, but which is, for the most part, thin, watery and bitter. Yet as a child I would avoid school and every day take myself to the local library. I would stand before the shelves in awe, almost afraid to touch, as I was so unused to things offering themselves to me. The rows seemed endless, unconquerable; and yet I pe This is not a love story. It was once, but my relationship with books has soured. Reading is, these days, like swallowing a cheap broth, one that contains the occasional scrap of meat, but which is, for the most part, thin, watery and bitter. Yet as a child I would avoid school and every day take myself to the local library. I would stand before the shelves in awe, almost afraid to touch, as I was so unused to things offering themselves to me. The rows seemed endless, unconquerable; and yet I perhaps now own more books than that library ever contained. I own so many; too many. But really they own me, and they oppress me. What was once my passion has become my prison. In my room I am surrounded on all sides by shaky towers of books. It is as though I am trying to wall myself in, when in fact I want to break out. I fantasise about giving them all away or creating a huge pyre and setting fire to it. Yet books, I’m told, do not burn. So picking up Bohumil Hrabal’s Too Loud a Solitude seems, at best, like a form of masochism. Not only is it a book, but it is a book about the value of books and the pleasures of reading. The value of books and the pleasure of reading? I am convinced that one day my towers will fall and crush me. They are crushing me already, slowly but surely. Too Loud A Solitude is narrated by Haňt’a, a man who for thirty-five years has been compacting wastepaper, smearing himself with letters until, he says, he has come to resemble an encyclopaedia. As a character, he is the Hrabalian archetype, which is to say that he seems naive, perhaps at times even something of an idiot, but is, simultaneously, unassumingly, capable of great insight or displays of great intelligence. He is a man, a drunk you might say, who, for example, will sit dreaming at a bar and when he moves to open his wallet will fling upon the counter a mouse or let fall one from his trouser-leg. Yet he also quotes Nietzsche, Hegel, Rimbaud and Kant. Although lacking in formal education, Haňt’a is well read, having received an ‘unwitting education’ from the books he saves from destruction, from the jaws of his press, and takes home. In this way, I am reminded again of that child, myself as a child, standing before the seemingly endless rows of books, timidly reaching out my hand. Where would I be without the activity that I now so disparage, which gave me my own unwitting education? At least Haňt’a has the good grace to feel gratitude. He writes, lovingly, lovely lines about popping a sentence into his mouth and sucking it like a fruit drop, lines about thoughts that dissolve within him, infusing his brain and heart. Am I so bitter these days that I cannot acknowledge how beautiful that is? For Haňt’a education allows, or gives birth to, thought; without access to profound ideas, one cannot have profound ideas of one’s own; one’s brain remains foetal. Yet, for me, education was a means of escape from a situation I found intolerable, from an environment that was harmful. My mother, bless her, cried at the station as I boarded the train that was taking me away to university. She cried, I’m sure, because she understood that I had dug my way out, which is something she had once hoped for herself but never achieved; and books had been my tools, books it was that had broken the earth; without them I would have exhausted myself frantically clawing at the hard surface without making an impression. Haňt’a, however, is much less demanding of life than I was. One does not get the impression that he has ambitions to be elevated above his current station; and yet books allow him to escape too. He is so good-natured that it would be easy to take lightly how heavy-hearted a man might feel deep in a mouse-infested cellar, compacting wastepaper, day in and day out, for thirty-five years; all while living in a police-state; a police-state that doesn’t look too kindly upon books, to boot. It is no surprise, therefore, that he drinks; and it is no surprise that this underground man values, and takes pleasure in, the printed words that transport him to another, better world. Our world, Haňt’a repeatedly informs us, is not humane; and he, furthermore, provides the reader with numerous examples of this inhumanity, such as the working girls who draw the insides from still living chickens and his gypsy lover who is murdered in a concentration camp. Yes, there is a cellar-deep strain of melancholy running through the book, although it is easy to miss it, to be seduced into missing it by the soothingly good-natured, and unassuming, voice of the narrator. Indeed, Too Loud a Solitude is a book of contrasts of this sort: Haňt’a, the wise fool, the intellectual simpleton, who decorates his bails of wastepaper with art and rare books, like flowers in the barrels of guns; Haňt’a, the ‘refined butcher’, the cultured artist and the destroyer of culture. Doesn’t this topsy-turviness, this two-facedness, sum up human existence? The supreme and the inhumane, the good and the bad, love and hate, creation and destruction, suffering and joy, etc. Just look at Manka, poor Manka, the pretty girl who, when at her most divine, her most winning, twice falls foul of faeces. And Haňt’a too, who takes pride in his work – which is itself a kind of shitting, what with paper going in one end and lumpy bails coming out the other – to such an extent that he wishes to purchase his press for his retirement; Haňt’a, poor Haňt’a, who falls foul, not of faeces, but progress, inhumane progress. Ah, how beautiful the world’s hands are, but how dirty its fingernails. Bohumil Hrabal, as much as any writer, understood this; and I can’t help but love him for it, even now. So I guess that this is a love story, in the end. Yet it is the worst kind of love, the kind that flickers with life, that occasionally reminds you of what you once had, that tricks you, for a short time, into thinking that you will have it again.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Steven Godin

    I am not quite sure how a book can pull off extremes of slapstick comedy and weirdness, plus Kafka-esque political seriousness, but Bohumil Hrabal here gives us the best of both worlds. This novella tells of Hanta, a man who has lived in a Czech police state for many years, and works a compressing machine for wastepaper and books in a basement thick with flies and alive with rodents. That is until the latest addition to the company - an automatic press, puts his job future in jeopardy. This shar I am not quite sure how a book can pull off extremes of slapstick comedy and weirdness, plus Kafka-esque political seriousness, but Bohumil Hrabal here gives us the best of both worlds. This novella tells of Hanta, a man who has lived in a Czech police state for many years, and works a compressing machine for wastepaper and books in a basement thick with flies and alive with rodents. That is until the latest addition to the company - an automatic press, puts his job future in jeopardy. This sharp and eccentric short work is both devastatingly dark and obliquely humorous in the way it goes about its business of showing us the battle of one man's resistance to a totalitarian regime. There within features numerous quotes from classical literature and the great philosophers, whilst Hanta tries to make sense of identity and the perplexities of modern life. The narrative, which is at once touching and transcendent, also carries important political undertones and cutting criticism giving this slim book greater depth. If possible, best read in one go. Look forward to reading more of this Writer, who was little known to me before. Safe to say he is now.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Paula

    3,5* “Now I’m back at my press, making up wastepaper bales, a classical philosopher in the heart of each bale, and my body is relaxed by my morning stroll through Prague, my mind is cleared by the thought that I am not alone, that there are thousands like me in Prague working underground, in basements and cellars, and that they have live, living, life-giving thoughts running through their heads." Costumo evitar livros sobre livros, já que tendem a ser histórias bonitinhas e açucaradas, mas este pr 3,5* “Now I’m back at my press, making up wastepaper bales, a classical philosopher in the heart of each bale, and my body is relaxed by my morning stroll through Prague, my mind is cleared by the thought that I am not alone, that there are thousands like me in Prague working underground, in basements and cellars, and that they have live, living, life-giving thoughts running through their heads." Costumo evitar livros sobre livros, já que tendem a ser histórias bonitinhas e açucaradas, mas este prendeu-me desde o início, com o retrato de um homem só e quase invisível, prestes a ser soterrado por toneladas de livros e a ser ultrapassado pelo progresso. Por cada frase doce e poética, há uma série delas duras e melancólicas, por cada imagem que nos inspira e apazigua, há uma sucessão de momentos sórdidos. Até que chega a um ponto em que se torna tudo demasiado alegórico e as ideias ficam muito repetitivas, como os episódios com as poias, o contraste da boa e velha cerveja com o moderno e desprezível leite e o simbolismo dos ratos, que sempre me exasperou em todas as obras em que surge. Um pouco mais de subtileza talvez resultasse melhor comigo. “Suddenly everything went black: I, who had spent thirty-five years compacting rejects, wastepaper, I, who couldn’t live without the prospect of rescuing a beautiful book from the odious waste, I would be compacting immaculate, inhumanly clean paper!"

  22. 4 out of 5

    Vartika

    "If a book has anything to say, it burns with a quiet laugh, because any book worth its salt points up and out of itself." This is a book that opens like a heart, and goes on to tell a story that beats one into a complete, tender, poignant submission, so that you hold it past the last word as if in a wake, and with your hand along its spine think upon every book you've ever loved. Or rescued, as Haňťa does, from being lost forever and crushed into nothingness: books that he says fill him—"with "If a book has anything to say, it burns with a quiet laugh, because any book worth its salt points up and out of itself." This is a book that opens like a heart, and goes on to tell a story that beats one into a complete, tender, poignant submission, so that you hold it past the last word as if in a wake, and with your hand along its spine think upon every book you've ever loved. Or rescued, as Haňťa does, from being lost forever and crushed into nothingness: books that he says fill him—"with water both magic and plain; I have only to lean over and a stream of beautiful thoughts flows out of me"—, that blur the lines separating him from himself and, in a canopy over his bed or in the dark cellar at work with the flies and the mice, become his bittersweet, beautiful misery in a world where progressus ad futurum meets regressus ad originem, and leaves no room for small joys. Too Loud a Solitude is a paean to bibliophilia and to the idea of literature as resistance; a searing, if oblique, critique of Totalitarianism in general and of Communist Czechoslovakia in specific. Despite the moral contradiction that engulfs Haňťa in his thirty five years of turning beloved literature into the wastepaper the state deems it is, he nevertheless retains a joyfulness (accompanied by a near-perpetual drunkenness), a private sense of creating art in the form of bales of 'waste' decorated with Gauguin and Van Gogh and consecrated by the words of beloved philosophers—that is, until he is replaced by a bigger machine and faster union workers who drink milk and take holidays, who have been taught to work with a singleminded thoughtlessness that Haňťa and his unwittingly educated brethren can not fathom. Yet, our narrator would rather be crushed by books than have his spirit crushed, thus bringing his story to its unforgettable coda. On many levels, Hrabal is Haňťa, and Too Loud a Solitude becomes too a ballad to his own personal and literary resistance to the regime. However, even with the sheer courage of its publication set aside, it is both a book startlingly original and dazzlingly rooted in tradition: in the proverbial 'idiot' as the protagonist, we see a solitude whose composition is comparable to that of the characters created by Camus and Kafka (however, whereas absurdity in Kafka is achieved by putting one in an otherworldly setting, Hrabal's setting is no more absurd than the world he is living in or the way in which he relates to it). There is, too, a more obvious intertextuality in Haňťa living with the proverbial (and then, not) ghosts of great writers and philosophers. What I found most arresting, however, is the sheer effortlessness and beauty with which the author here balances pathos and comedy, both slapstick and absurd—I've never read anything quite like it, and it does not diminish the effect of the story but delivers it to an end quite the opposite. All in all, Too Loud a Solitude is a marvel too great to ignore and too haunting to forget. It opens like a heart and ends with a pounding —it does indeed burn with a quiet laugh, so to speak—and leaves one with a feeling you can't quite put a finger to.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Atri

    A tragicomic and unconventional portrayal of a sensitive and idiosyncratic bibliophile.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Peter

    Bohumil Hrabal is a master with words. To understand his mastery, one must know that in addition to novelist, Hrabal is also a Palaverer. I couldn't find a precise definition of the word, other than one who palavers, which is not helpful so I'll give it a go myself. A Palaverer is a literary, grammatical, and story acrobat. More specifically, a Palaverer writes extremely long sentences, sometimes as long as an entire book. They aren't just long for length's sake but also tell a story. Bohumil Hr Bohumil Hrabal is a master with words. To understand his mastery, one must know that in addition to novelist, Hrabal is also a Palaverer. I couldn't find a precise definition of the word, other than one who palavers, which is not helpful so I'll give it a go myself. A Palaverer is a literary, grammatical, and story acrobat. More specifically, a Palaverer writes extremely long sentences, sometimes as long as an entire book. They aren't just long for length's sake but also tell a story. Bohumil Hrabal's 'Dancing Lessons for the Advanced in Age' is one example of the craft. When one can perform such great acts on the high wire, walking on the ground is easy. That ease oozes through each sentence in Bohumil Hrabal's non-Palaverer novel, 'Too Loud a Solitude.' A small book with big ideas, 'Too Loud a Solitude' was written during a time when big ideas got one sent to the Gulag. Hrabal is Czech and wrote while the country labored behind the Iron Curtain. The Soviets banned his works until he publicly appeased the government in Moscow --to his supporters' ire. Too Loud a Solitude is an excellent introduction to the author. Hrabal's prose is evidence of his great acrobatic skill, though one is not reading a high-wire act, but rather a very grounded story, beautifully written, about a man toiling away in a basement. His conflict: he's tasked to destroy books and art but adores them above all else. Hrabal saddles this poor man with an additional problem: pride in his work. What's a man to do who prides himself on a job well done but whose job is to destroy the things he loves the most? Read for the cure.

  25. 5 out of 5

    ἀρχαῖος (arkhaîos) In Lockdown

    "Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more...." (Apologies to W.S.) - “But just as a beautiful fish will occasionally sparkle in the water of a polluted river that runs through a stretch of factories, so in the flow of old paper the spine of a rare book will occasionally shine forth, and if for a moment I turn away, dazzled, I always turn back in time to rescue it, and after wiping it off on my apron, opening it wide, and breathing in its print, I glue my eyes to the text and read the fir "Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more...." (Apologies to W.S.) - “But just as a beautiful fish will occasionally sparkle in the water of a polluted river that runs through a stretch of factories, so in the flow of old paper the spine of a rare book will occasionally shine forth, and if for a moment I turn away, dazzled, I always turn back in time to rescue it, and after wiping it off on my apron, opening it wide, and breathing in its print, I glue my eyes to the text and read the first sentence like a Homeric prophecy…” - Having spent his life crushing and destroying waste paper and books in his compacting press, Hanta, the protagonist of ‘Too Loud a Solitude’, describes how he finds treasure amongst the waste. Who among us does not know that feeling of excitement at finding an unexpected masterpiece on the shelves of a used book store or a future classic on the site of an online book store? And Hanta has found much to tantalize him: Camus, Sartre, Nietzsche, Homer, Lao-Tze, Holderlin, and “Goethe and Schiller in Morocco bindings.” Over his thirty-five years of compacting old paper and books, he has read them all and, as result, this formally uneducated labourer has become something of an educated fool. His wisdom is matched by his simplicity. - “Along with thirty-five years of pushing the red and the green buttons on my hydraulic press, I’ve had thirty-five years of drinking beer—not that I enjoy it, no, I loathe drunkards, I drink to make me think better, to go to the heart of what I read, because what I read I read not for the fun of it or to kill time or fall asleep: I … drink so that what I read will prevent me from falling into everlasting sleep, will give me the d.t.’s, because I share with Hegel the view that a noble-hearted man is not yet a nobleman, nor a criminal a murderer.” A very wise, but simple, take on Hegel. “If I knew how to write, I’d write a book about the greatest of man’s joys and sorrows.” As would most of us. We follow Hanta as he slowly, much to the ire of his boss, crushes paper into bales to be carted off on trucks; as he creates works of art by framing bales with “sopping-wet Rembrandts, Halses, Monets, Manets, Klimts, Cézannes and other big guns of [reproductions] of European art…” The novel drips with irony as the author, Bohumil Hrabal, shows us the best and the worst of modern society…socialist society of late-twentieth century Czechoslovakia. Every chapter, every paragraph, every sentence of the book must be studied to catch the double entendre, to delineate the kitsch from quality, love from…indifference, reality from illusion, “artist” from “audience.” - ‘Too Loud a Solitude’ is a story of love of books by a man who destroys books. It is the story of a man’s love for a woman that seems fated to dissolve in shit (as readers will see). It is violence and what is art. a story of a socialist world where modern “socialist labour” cheerfully marches on to replace all that is out-dated and all that is of value. It is a story of our world where we are unsure of what is violence and what is art. - “Perhaps he was the one who, last year at the Holesovice slaughterhouse, put a knife to my neck, shoved me into a corner, took out a slip of paper, and read me a poem celebrating the beauties of the countryside at Ricany, then apologized, saying he hadn’t found any other way of getting people to listen to his verse." - HIGHLY RECOMMENDED BUT TO BE READ ONLY BY THOSE WITH A STRONG APPRECIATION FOR THE IRONIC.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Trish

    Hrabal was quite a man. He seems to have understood, and relished, life's absurdities and joys while criticizing societal failures with the nib of his pen. This work feels fresh enough to have been written today, and paradoxically has the feel of a book a century or two old. His mention, more than once, of the phrase "not until we're totally crushed do we show what we are made of" awakens the reader to the anguish in his "world of moral contradictions." Nearly every chapter starts with a variatio Hrabal was quite a man. He seems to have understood, and relished, life's absurdities and joys while criticizing societal failures with the nib of his pen. This work feels fresh enough to have been written today, and paradoxically has the feel of a book a century or two old. His mention, more than once, of the phrase "not until we're totally crushed do we show what we are made of" awakens the reader to the anguish in his "world of moral contradictions." Nearly every chapter starts with a variation of the phrase, "I've been compacting paper for thirty-five years." This, then is the story of a book baler, who works slowly enough to see the titles of books before they are crushed, and who manages to salvage more than a few. In fact, his salvaged titles are themselves crushed beneath one another in the too small space he has for them above his bed, threatening every day to crush him. But it is only when the boss tells him that he will no longer be pulping old books but blank paper that our book baler feels abandoned. He feels "too loud a solitude" and is so crushed in spirit that he imagines Seneca, author of On Tranquillity of Mind, slashing the veins of his wrist in a gilt bathtub. A coruscating look at the place of art and literature in a socialist state, tempered by the acknowledgement that man himself is perfectible. A far more engaging review of this book is written by Kris. I recommend reading what she wrote.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Jenny (Reading Envy)

    I first heard about this book when I listened to episode 185 of the Book Fight Podcast, where they discussed the book Closely Watched Trains. While describing the background and context of that novel, they mentioned this one in passing, and it sounded right up my alley. The central character of Hanta works as a trash compactor in the years immediately following the defeat of the Nazis in World War II. He also rescues books from his workplace and has been hoarding and stacking endless books on his I first heard about this book when I listened to episode 185 of the Book Fight Podcast, where they discussed the book Closely Watched Trains. While describing the background and context of that novel, they mentioned this one in passing, and it sounded right up my alley. The central character of Hanta works as a trash compactor in the years immediately following the defeat of the Nazis in World War II. He also rescues books from his workplace and has been hoarding and stacking endless books on history and philosophy in his tiny apartment. There isn't much more to it, but the framing of this daily life allows for reflections on his part about philosophy, his life, his relationships, his future, etc. I enjoyed the read but probably wouldn't have enjoyed it if had been much longer. And I probably don't know quite enough about philosophy; someone who did would like it even more than me.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Kai

    Is there anything more beautiful than a book about love for books?

  29. 4 out of 5

    Joy D

    In this novella, protagonist Haňťa works in a paper disposal and compacting facility in Prague in the 1930s to 1970s. He holds a deep love for books and occasionally saves them from being destroyed. He is not highly educated but has expanded his knowledge by reading the books he has accumulated. His home is filled with great works of literature. When he visits a larger, more efficient paper processing facility, he sees the writing on the wall that his small facility will soon fade into the past. In this novella, protagonist Haňťa works in a paper disposal and compacting facility in Prague in the 1930s to 1970s. He holds a deep love for books and occasionally saves them from being destroyed. He is not highly educated but has expanded his knowledge by reading the books he has accumulated. His home is filled with great works of literature. When he visits a larger, more efficient paper processing facility, he sees the writing on the wall that his small facility will soon fade into the past. His drinking worsens. For me, the best part of this book is the writing, with passages such as: “But just as a beautiful fish will occasionally sparkle in the water of a polluted river that runs through a stretch of factories, so in the flow of old paper the spine of a rare book will occasionally shine forth, and if for a moment I turn away, dazzled, I always turn back in time to rescue it, and after wiping it off on my apron, opening it wide, and breathing in its print, I glue my eyes to the text and read the first sentence like a Homeric prophecy; then I place it carefully among my other splendid finds.” Hrabal elegantly expresses the joy that readers find in books: “And I huddle in the lee of my paper mountain like Adam in the bushes and pick up a book, and my eyes open panic-stricken on a world other than my own, because when I start reading I’m somewhere completely different, I’m in the text, it’s amazing, I have to admit I’ve been dreaming, dreaming in a land of great beauty, I’ve been in the very heart of truth.” The book is about the finding beauty in simplicity. It is about solitude and the impact of change. It condemns the destruction of knowledge, which was prevalent at the time. It is sad, and I cannot say it was a particularly pleasant reading experience, but I appreciate its messages. I would not recommend it to anyone feeling depressed.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Diane S ☔

    This is an irresistible journey through old town Prague, with Hanta, a man whose job is the crushing, compacting and recycling of paper, novels, letters, etc. He steals moments on his job, reading books and acquiring an odd sort of education, becoming quite familiar with the leading philosophers. He takes many of the bales home, using his artistic expression and inserting whole volumes in the middle of the bales. His home, filled with these bales of papers is in danger of crumbling down on him. This is an irresistible journey through old town Prague, with Hanta, a man whose job is the crushing, compacting and recycling of paper, novels, letters, etc. He steals moments on his job, reading books and acquiring an odd sort of education, becoming quite familiar with the leading philosophers. He takes many of the bales home, using his artistic expression and inserting whole volumes in the middle of the bales. His home, filled with these bales of papers is in danger of crumbling down on him. He also drinks great quantities of beer. Beer and his books are his life. Prague and it Communist regime had very strident laws of censorship. Whole libraries were crushed, and I can only think how dangerous it must have been for the author to write this novel, which is a thinly veiled criticism of censorship, representing a person's individuality being crushed just as the books were being destroyed.. This novel contained many beautiful passages on reading. ""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 liquor 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." Just love this quote. Also this one on the condition of his house, The way I look at it, my life fits together beautifully; at work I have books-and bottles and inkwells and staplers-raining down on me thorough the opening in the cellar ceiling, and at home I have books above me constantly threatening to fall and kill or at least main me." Also found this link to a small view of the short movie of this http://vimeo.com/11693975

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