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The Book Of Hrabal : [Paperback]

Peter Esterhaazy , Judith Sollosy

Price: £15.50 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

15 May 1995
An elegant homage to the great Czech storyteller Bohumil Hrabal, The Book of Hrabal is also a glowing paean to blues music, saxophones, and the mixed blessings of domestic life. It is also a farewell to the years of communism in Eastern Europe. And it is a treatise on the ongoing relationship between God and humankind as reflected in the lives of a Hungarian writer and his wife. The novel centers on Anna, the blues-singing housewife and mother of three (soon to be four) who suffers through her husband's often impossible writing experiments. She addresses her reminiscences and reflections to Hrabal, his current subject. Her thoughts swing from domestic matters to the injustices suffered by her family during the Stalinist 1950s, the police harassment in subsequent years, and the many strains on her marriage. Her husband, in turn, is so hopelessly entangled in his project celebrating Hrabal that he is incapable of actually writing it. The story develops into a literary love triangle, as Hrabal becomes Anna's confidant and an invisible participant in the marriage. Meanwhile two angels shadow the house, disguised as secret policemen and speaking with God via walkie-talkie in a surprising blend of celestial and urban slang. Their mission: to prevent Anna from aborting her fourth child. When this outcome is in doubt, God himself (aka Bruno) enters the scene; he chats with Hrabal, takes saxophone lessons from an irreverent Charlie Parker, and plays the sax for Anna to try to dissuade her from ending the pregnancy. Unfortunately the Lord is tone deaf, and his love for jazz and blues is matched only by his utter lack of musical talent. A brilliant stylist, Esterhazy creates a complex and playfulnovel through deft manipulation of language, tone, and perspective.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 168 pages
  • Publisher: Northwestern University Press; Reprinted Edition edition (15 May 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0810111993
  • ISBN-13: 978-0810111998
  • Product Dimensions: 20 x 12 x 1 cm
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,745,695 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

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Amazon.com: 3.0 out of 5 stars  2 reviews
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not story-teller but story-breaker 16 Feb 2000
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
First off, Esterhazy is obviously not Hrabal the Storyteller, nor is he intending to be a Hrabal the Storyteller. In fact, he writes of a frustrated, blocked writer who is miserably *failing* to write a book celebrating Hrabal. It's a cosmic joke on mimicry; a book that ends with a jazz-loving God picking up a saxophone for the first time and letting out a horrific blurt of a note that resounds across the world.
Throughout Esterhazy's characteristically chaotic mono/dia/tria/etc.logues there are lovely, alchemic moments: "you probably know what a Hungarian sentence is like...with not a structure in sight, or a decent relative pronoun, the words all lumped together, and yet...A Hungarian sentence is this `and yet'. You have to start from scratch every time. It's as little civilized as the heart." Here, to generalize, you have a summary description of Esterhazy's own prose.
Another shining verbal moment:
"Masturbation which -- though it may never get you anywhere, nevertheless creates a universal space-time, the genesis of all creation; it is not rhythm, but throbbing!" E. loves to take the bodily(uncouth by Western standards) and mix it in with some dabs of theory. And honestly, reading *The Book of Hrabal* is *throbbing*. Largely due to my accidental run-in with this book I, a woman of no Eastern European descent, am currently learning Hungarian and pursuing graduate studies in Hungarian Literature. That should speak for itself.
9 of 15 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A far cry from Hrabal 28 Aug 1999
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
This was the second of Esterhazy's books I read- the first being "A little Hungarian Pornography. (KMP)" I approached this book with great interest, not because I liked KMP but because Hrabal is one of my favorite writers. I am unclear how Esterhazy intends this as a homage to him.
Esterhazy's style is curt and doesn't flow. It appears he is trying to do some James Joyce/Jose Saramago thing, but badly- which is pretty much par for the course as his other books are written in the same style.
This is especially ironic, as Bohumil Hrabal is above all a storyteller. Hrabal's style and content are as different from Esterhazy as moon from sun. My greatest concern with the book (which I find merely annoying), and in fact the reason I am writing this review, is that I would find it a great tragedy if anyone steered celar of Hrabal after reading this pathetic attempt to cop some glory off of his name. Scrap this book and get a copy of "I served the King of England" or "Ostre Stredovany Vlaky."
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