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Spisovatel Bohumil Hrabal (The Writer Bohumil Hrabal) by Tomáš Mazal


The kind of book that would never have been produced without the support of a government agency, and therefore, the kind of book that might be less likely to be produced now than then back in the old days of 2004; this is not only the best book on Bohumil Hrabal that I have found to date (and I intend to keep on looking), but the kind of book that can change your life, and has, for me, twice. From the blisteringly angry preface by Egon Bondy, written in January, 2001, through the chapters dealing with Hrabal's death, to those dealing with his first loves both literary and romantic, here is an example of the best kind of that class of biography written by people who knew the subject and believed him to be wronged.

It is desperately sad that a book of this quality, about a man the calibre of Hrabal, is likely destined to languish in a handful of second-hand bookshops going for the price of a pretentiously indifferent main course at the kind of gastropub Hrabal would never have willingly entered. Having said that, perhaps it is entirely appropriate. By the time of Hrabal's centenary when the inheritors of the 'shadow establishment' Bondy railed against were cursing Hrabal as a collaborator and he had been turned into a mythical drunken factotum, an ambivalently neutralised national treasure, a prettier full-colour coffee table book was put out full of all of the dates and all of the Gradgrindian facts and factoids of the matter that were then considered fit to print. With it he was reasonably well-served, but I have no need for it. With this book, I feel I am closer to the truth of his life and work. That most aren't, I will admit, is little surprise.

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