11 December 2007

Bohumil Hrabal, Closely Observed Trains, 1965

In 1945 a young railway signalman with a death wish, Milos Hrma, works at a small but strategic Bohemian station, but however straightforward his job may be it’s complicated by his own set of small concerns, such as the matter of dispatching German troops to their crumbling Eastern Front, or the minor scandal involving the station’s female telegraphist, or losing his virginity, or the small part he will soon play in disposing of a German ammunition train. It’s cleverly comedic in the way that the endless trains of death and misery that pass through Hrma’s station are only briefly acknowledged while Hrma’s own lesser preoccupations always take centre stage. Like another of Hrabal’s rather unique books, Too Loud a Solitude, this was initially difficult to find a way into, but once the rhythm of it becomes apparent it is full of earthy humour and some joyously sardonic writing.  PY


No comments: