8 January 2010

Bohumil Hrabal, Dancing Lessons for the Advanced in Age, 1964

An unnamed narrator holds forth to a group of ladies he obviously wants to impress on matters such as marital strife, dream symbolism, personal hygeine, crooks, barmaids, balalaikas, unlikely personal dalliances and anything else that comes to mind, all in one rambling, tumbling, obscenely long and unfinished sentence that’s clearly meant to be taken with a massive pinch of salt. As with other books by Hrabal (for instance the bizarrely worthwhile Too Loud a Solitude and Closely Observed Trains), Hrabal’s linear momentum becomes rather effortless once you get into his awkward rhythm: the oddness of what he’s describing is somehow shaken off and the reader can indulge this vainglorious character all the way. As book-length, comic self-portraits go this is excellent, and Hrabal’s self-imposed task of writing an entire book in a single sentence was clearly a constraint he could also turn into something of a liberation.  PY


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