Top positive review
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on 28 March 2017
Bohumil Hrabal’s wonderful tale is always a pleasure to read, although for many it is probably the film made of this that is most familiar. Narrated by Miloš Hrma an apprentice on the railway, this story is touching but also funny.
Opening with a German plane being shot down Hrabal gives us comedy as the locals run about trying not to be hit by a wing, and then taking what remains of the plane to pieces for such things as new roofs for rabbit hutches.
In some ways Miloš is like that well known character Švejk, here coming of age and wanting to live an apparently carefree life. After all we read of his dad and his early retirement, his granddad, a mesmerist who unfortunately cannot stop the onset of the Nazi war machine, and his great granddad, who was a waster. But we do see that beneath this attitude is actually someone who is damaged mentally.
With lots of incident this does read like a series of anecdotes but for Hrabal this is probably the most cohesive of his tales for us English. The author liked to listen to those tales people told when drinking in taverns and in many ways this reads like that, and thus you don’t find yourself minding the jumping about.
With some very memorable characters, and an incident involving a female member of staff having her bum stamped with the rubber stamps laying around in the booking hall office, this book will certainly have you laughing in places. And having worked on the railways myself some of the incidents are quite well believable.
Short and admittedly not to the taste of everyone, this does make for some good tragicomic reading.